Lancashire Councils write to Government over financial allocation
Monday, May 11, 2020
Local authorities in Lancashire have written to the Government to ask for reassurance that they will be fully reimbursed for the cost of dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Government recently announced a second allocation of money for Lancashire to support the efforts being made to keep residents, especially the most vulnerable, safe and protected.
However the amount that has been given to the county has left the councils deeply disappointed as their share of the funding has reduced by £6million compared to the first tranche of funding paid at the end of March.
Lancashire is one of the worst hit areas in the country in respect of the reduction in its allocation.
The letter, which has been sent by the Lancashire Leaders on behalf of all the local authorities in Lancashire, explains how the county has risen to the challenge of maintaining essential services while also taking action to deal with the significant impact the virus has had on residents and businesses.
Actions include establishing Community Support Hubs in each of the county's 14 district and boroughs contacting almost 30,000 of the most socially or clinically vulnerable residents to determine what support they need, sourcing millions of items of Personal Protective Equipment to keep key workers safe and supporting the Social Care Sector in the county.
Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of Lancashire County Council and chairman of the Lancashire Leaders group, said: " At the beginning of this crisis, the Government called upon all local authorities to play their part in responding to the impact of the pandemic.
"Collectively, we have done magnificently in extremely difficult circumstances, and are continuing to do so. In fact the Lancashire Resilience Forum, which all the county's local authorities support, is considered nationally as one of the most effective and has, in our view, provided decisive leadership in the early stages of the response to the outbreak.
"We are calling upon the Government to deliver on the promises which have been made and ensure a full reimbursement of all costs, whether additional expenditure or loss of income, arising from the impact of Covid 19, and also acknowledgement that these costs will be incurred over a lengthy period of time.
"It is vital we have the necessary funding to support individuals, businesses and wider community-based organisations through this period as well as help them make a sustainable recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
"The inescapable fact is that local government as a whole needs a much bigger injection of funds from government to cover the financial burden caused by COVID-19 which includes lost income and planned savings not being achieved as well as the huge increases in expenditure."
Councillor Mohammed Khan OBE, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We are used to being resourceful, being one of the most hardest hit from the 10 years of austerity, though we simply can’t balance the books if the shortfall from the rising costs and lost income are not fully covered.
“We stepped up quickly and have risen to every challenge and request from Government as well as coming up with ways to help people based on our local knowledge and expertise.
“Together with others in Lancashire, we are playing a very significant role in the crisis, adapting our services and taking on new roles to protect the NHS, support the most vulnerable, including many people who don’t normally need of our services.”
Cllr Simon Blackburn, executive leader of Blackpool Council, said “I think it is fair to say that the new method of allocating funding to Councils has come as a great shock to an already strained system.
"The Secretary of State has publicly and repeatedly told Councils to “spend whatever needs to be spent” to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, and we’ve kept his officials fully informed about how much we’ve spent thus far (over £21 million), so to see our allocation cut from £6 million to £3.8 million left us flabbergasted.
"Officials in Whitehall keep reassuring us that Council Taxpayers won’t be left out of pocket at the end of all this, but I’m very nervous that we’ve so far had less than half of our spending repaid by Government.
"I will continue to seek reassurances about this from Ministers and Civil Servants, with the support of our MPs.”
Cllr Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council, said: "Our local district councils have been at the forefront of the coronavirus response. We have managed to keep essential services going, protected the most vulnerable, supported our business and provided leadership for our areas. Our staff have risen to the challenge as key workers.
"Councils have already seen their budget hugely reduced over the last 10 years and we were in tough times financially even before the coronavirus. Responding to this unprecedented crisis is having a huge impact on our finances. On behalf of districts in Lancashire, I urge the government to fully reimburse local authorities in Lancashire for the cost dealing with the outbreak."