ESTIMATIONS on how much tackling the coronavirus is going to cost Fife Council are "really horrific".

Those are the words of co-leader and SNP councillor David Alexander who has addressed the £86 million bill the local authority is approximately facing for the year.

Last month, that figure was £78 million but councillors were told at the policy and co-ordination committee on Thursday last week that it had risen due to changes to schools and office buildings, a rise in inflation, staff costs in education and safety measures in construction.

Mr Alexander has warned that this figure could rise again as schools return and restrictions continue to ease, adding that "huge" council tax rises to help pay for the funding gaps is the "worst case scenario".

He told the Press: "I have seen some reports about huge council tax rises next year because of the funding gaps in council finances due to the virus.

"That is the "worst case scenario" and that scenario rarely happens. There are many realistic scenarios being looked at instead which are far more likely.

"Much of the numbers quoted regarding Fife are still estimates but the more time financial staff have, these estimates become actuals.

"The gross costs from the pandemic are really horrific. The first stab at these costs came in at £78m. The second was £86m.

"This cost could rise again as we come closer to opening up and the kids get back to school.

"However, the first stab net cost was £51 million and this was reduced to £19m in the second report.

"It's the net cost we have to cover. That is a good trajectory.

"So far, there are additional funds to come to councils from the Scottish Government.

"At least £150 million is to be allocated but at this stage we do not know what the distribution will be and how much will be ear-marked for specific expenditure."

Finance chief Eileen Rowland submitted a report to the committee updating councillors on the financial consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Loss of income from areas like car-parking, school meals and childcare are hitting hard and they’re expecting less money from council tax, non-domestic rates and council rents as families and businesses cope with financial hardship.

Measures to deal with the impact of the virus, such as increased use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), IT equipment for staff working from home and school transport, are adding to the financial burden.

But Mr Alexander stressed that the council does have reserves in place that can be used to ensure it isn't left "totally exposed".

He continued: "It is still very early in terms of worrying about council tax bills - that decision is seven months away and lots can happen.

"We will receive another financial upgrade in August that will be more accurate.

All the political parties in Fife, with the exception of the conservatives, have asked for the Scottish Government to have additional borrowing powers.

"At the moment, the Westminster government have denied us that.

"With that power we could look forward in a more relaxed manner.

"Without it, or without additional funding, the immediate future is more difficult."