THE stark impact of the pandemic on the retail and hospitality sector has been laid bare after Bolton Council said it collected £42.5m less than expected in business rates in the past year.

The council’s annual accounts for 2020/21 show they received £232m in grant support from central government since the start of the pandemic.

Just over £40m of that figure went towards additional business rate relief for the hospitality and retail sectors who were granted rates respite when Government mandated restrictions forced most to close in late March 2020 and again early this year.

The council’s original budget, compiled before Covid-19 became a factor, gave an expected business rates collection figure of £82.4m

The actual figure collected was £40m.

Even factoring in the government cash to compensate for this Bolton Council is left with a shortfall of £2.5m against its budgeted amount.

There was less of an impact on council tax income during the financial year with the council budgeting for receipts of £116m and actually getting in £114.5m.

The combined effect of the shortfall in both taxes means the council ended up with £3.5m less in its coffers than expected.

Introducing the annual accounts, the council’s deputy chief executive Sue Johnson said the council faced great uncertainty on whether income streams from business rates would recover.

She said: “Clearly there remains considerable uncertainty around business rates and council Tax income and this will continue to be closely monitored throughout 2021/22.

“In 2020/21 the chancellor announced at the budget that relief would be provided covering leisure and hospitality.

“This further reduced our expected local collection of business rates by around £40m.

“The government in turn funded councils via grant payment to offset the business rates foregone.

“In total over £200m has been received by the council.”

The accounts also reveal that via central government funds, Bolton Council has distributed £59m in business support grants, £24m in local restrictions support grants and £3.4m to residents via the council tax hardship fund.

In the financial year the council spent £63m in capital investment.

Among those projects was £9.7m on strategic investment in Manchester Airport, £3.4m on drop and go car parking, again at the airport, £5m on highways and £9.6m on the town centre strategy.