Counties welcome extra £1.6bn for local authorities

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2020 | 18 April 2020

England’s largest councils have today welcomed the government’s announcement of an extra £1.6bn for local authorities.

The County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 36 large county authorities, says that today’s announcement is testimony to the advocacy of the network’s leaders with ministers and MPs.

CCN says that it is ‘a very positive development that the Treasury and Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government have intervened to help fund councils’ Coronavirus-related costs but said that the situation will need to be kept under review with councils also facing lost income and further virus-related costs over the coming months.

The network’s chairman Cllr David Williams had written to the Chancellor and Local Government Secretary in early April warning that no council should become insolvent due to their efforts to combat the virus and their work to take pressure off the NHS.

The government had made available an initial £1.6bn to councils in March, but this funding has largely been swallowed up by councils paying their social care providers higher fees to meet increases in their costs, particularly for agency staff and personal protection equipment.

At the same time, councils have worked hard to ensure patients are able to leave hospital quicker, help secure accommodation for the homeless, and shielded vulnerable residents – but all at significant costs. The longer the outbreak continues, the more these costs will rise.

Coupled with pressures on council incomes, which could contribute to cashflow issues, councils say that the situation should be kept under review.

Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said:

“Today’s announcement is a very welcome response from the government which has clearly recognised the financial cost pressures councils are facing as a result of efforts to protect local residents and the NHS from the pandemic. We look forward to receiving this money as soon as possible and we urge that it is distributed in a similar way as previous funding announcements.

“Councils have taken on a huge amount of extra work in protecting and assisting our communities, which has been recognised by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, Robert Jenrick. The County Councils Network was clear in discussions with the government that no local authority should run out of money due to their efforts tackling the virus. We do not know how long the outbreak will last for, so the financial situation for councils must be kept under review, alongside a commitment to underwrite lost income from council tax.

“Coronavirus poses both short and long term challenges for our places. It is clear that councils will have a huge role to play in helping our communities and businesses back onto their feet, but we will need to be adequately resourced to do so.”