Lancashire's councils react to latest government grant to cover Covid costs
Councils across Lancashire have been told how much they will get from the latest round of government funding to help cover the financial cost of the coronavirus crisis.
The region will receive a total of £14m out of a £500m pot announced earlier this month.
Several of the county’s council leaders have previously called for full reimbursement of all their Covid-related costs, with some expressing concern that the government might only be prepared to cover extra expenditure incurred as a result of the pandemic – for which Lancashire as a whole has already been handed over £87m from Whitehall.
However, a new scheme is also being introduced under which three quarters of “relevant losses” will attract compensation from the government, over and above a five percent threshold which councils will have to absorb themselves.
At district council level, cash usually generated from leisure centres and car parking has collapsed during lockdown. Meanwhile, it is feared that business rates and council tax income – which is also shared with County Hall – will be dented as the hardship caused to households and businesses by Covid-19 becomes clearer.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver repeated his call for the government to meet all of the costs brought about by coronavirus – noting that his authority’s £8.2m share of the latest fund would still leave the council around £35m short of its total estimated Covid bill of £100m.
“It’s still not enough. I’ve written to government asking them to stand by the undertaking that they have given – and repeated on many occasions – that they will refund local authorities for all the extra expenditure as a result of Covid,” County Cllr Driver said.
Central Lancashire’s district council leaders say that they are currently reviewing whether their newly-announced cash allocations are sufficient – with Preston receiving £316,000, South Ribble £160,000 and Chorley £177,000.
However, Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown, has warned that the financial effects of the pandemic are likely to stretch over the long term.
“It will take us years to get over this and the government has really got to fund us properly. It looks like they are going to support us to some degree over the next year, but this is going to be a long-running situation.
“We’re still feeling the impact of austerity imposed after the last financial crash and any cuts we have to make in future would have an effect on people – they would mean less money to support the voluntary sector, inspect local food business, collect the bins and keep our parks safe and clean,” Cllr Brown said.
South Ribble Council leader Paul Foster welcomed the funding announcement, but added: “Local authorities have been fundamental in providing vital services, support and recovery to our residents, communities and businesses over the last couple of months and this has resulted in a number of financial setbacks, which we have been promised by government time and again we will be compensated for.
“I look forward to reviewing this offer with officers and I do hope the financial packages proposed sufficiently cover our needs. If not, we will be challenging the government to re-think their proposals.”
Meanwhile, Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said he, too, was now examining the level of funding being sent to the borough.
“In order to maintain vital services and to support our community and businesses through the impacts of Covid-19, we need significant funding.
“l look forward with great interest to more clarity from government and implore them to recognise the on-going contributions local authorities are making to the country’s recovery efforts and address this accordingly.”
The list below shows the amount each council is set to receive in the latest round of government funding, with the figure in brackets giving the total of all Covid-related grants distributed to local authorities since March.
BLACKBURN WITH DARWEN – £1.6m (£10.9m)
BLACKPOOL – £1.7m (£11.6m)
BURNLEY – £229K (£1.1m)
CHORLEY – £177K (£1.4m)
FYLDE – £125K (£962K0
HYNDBURN – £188K (£1.05m)
LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL – £8.2m (£65m)
LANCASTER – £271K (£1.8m)
PENDLE – £201K (£1.1m)
PRESTON – £316K – (£1.8m)
RIBBLE VALLEY – £77K (703K)
ROSSENDALE – £132K (881K)
SOUTH RIBBLE – £160K (£1.3m)
WEST LANCASHIRE – £190K (£1.3m)