Labour Calls for Local Government to be at Forefront of Recovery

Storm clouds hover over hard pressed local authorities

Local councils have been massively impacted by the Coronavirus crisis with Government making demands on spending and on services whilst imposing restrictions on public life and at the same time, whilst providing some much needed financial support, there will have to be a major reckoning somewhere down the line. Local Authority leaders were comforted when government minister, Robert Jenrick, stated that he would “do whatever is necessary” to support councils financially through the crisis, but the reality is not working, and without further urgent government funding guarantee, some councils may be subject to section 114 reports, which are essentially bankruptcy notifications,  in the next few weeks . Local Labour Councillors have been flagging up their concerns and demanding that Local Government should be recognised as a key driver to get us out of the crisis and into the recovery phase.

Leigh Redman
Leigh Redman, Labour opposition leader at County

County Spending ‘Millions’

Cllr Leigh Redman, Labour County Councillor for Bridgwater South, says “I have heard that this pandemic will make some councils bankrupt. Somerset and Sedgemoor have spent Millions of pounds helping people and keeping services running, and yes Government has helped, but Councils have been spending millions extra on providing social care and on housing rough sleepers throughout the lockdown, despite haemorrhaging even larger amounts in lost revenues from council tax, parking and leisure fees. I am also concerned by the lower level councils, Town and Parish councils have had nothing! With their loss of income and unaccounted Covid related spending, these frontline councils could fail”

Kathy Pearce Deputy Leader of Sedgemoor Labour Group

District ‘Facing Shortfall’

Tory controlled Sedgemoor District Council could be facing a financial hit of £3.8million from lost income as a direct result of Covid 19 crisis and the lack of adequate funding from their own Government. Labours Deputy Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce (Labour, Westover) said “Such an impact on an authority the size of Sedgemoor will be massive as the governments bail-out package only amounts to £1,263,000 so there’ll be a shortfall of £2.5million-which actually amounts to one third of losses so far. So It will be a challenge for the ruling group to justify the level of cuts Sedgemoor could be forced to impose if the government does not up its assistance by two or three-fold.  Sedgemoor has also put a lot of emphasis on its ‘Investment strategy’  and I will be pushing them for more information on if this is working out or whether there needs to be a re-focusing on local regeneration projects instead of speculating across the country.“.  

What about Towns and Parishes?

Brian Smedley wants “Power back to the town halls”

Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) put the case for the Lowest Tier authorities, the Towns and Parishes saying “Bridgwater Town Council is losing income from several key streams-the town hall theatre and associated room hire, rental income from our property portfolio ,both retail premises and office rental. In this case we have chosen to support our tenants with a rent holiday. The Friends of Blake Museum are also losing money due to being closed; thus the council is losing annual donations from the Friends towards the museum upkeep. We are also incurring additional non-budgeted expenditure due the COVID crisis. This also comes at the very time we have taken on more staff to assist with our new role in charge of the town’s cemeteries. Overall, the impact is potentially looking like the Town Council could lose in excess of £60k this year. We have frozen grants, called on the Town Clerk to do an emergency financial review and then when we start public council meetings again on 18th June will look at where we are.”

Cllr Smedley who as Labour opposition Leader on Sedgemoor District Council, attends weekly ‘Leaders Liaison’ meetings. He has been calling consistently  for the release of accurate local Covid death statistics and urging investigation and action into the affect on care homes and the supply of PPE. As we move to the recovery phase the oppositions ‘scrutiny arm’ is now shifting to a new focus. He says “There is Government confusion about the process and stages of how we come out from the lockdown period and inevitably we are getting mixed messages. Labour councils across the country have spent much of their time in the last fortnight trying to get clear answers about the expectations on local government. The original ‘populist’ language of ‘do whatever is necessary’ now seems more like ‘a promise to only fund the direct costs incurred by councils in responding to the crisis’. Given that the major part of the financial gap that Local Government faces – currently estimated at approximately £63m in the current financial year alone – is in lost revenue income and unachievable savings, this is a major problem for mid and upper tier levels but no-one has yet thought of the lowest levels.”  

Local Government on the Frontline

Town and Parish Councils need to be part of the recovery phase

While council staff remain in the front line in the battle against coronavirus across the UK, most council’s income continues to fall. Local Government is now facing a very real prospect that, if this is not recognised in further rounds of financial assistance from Government, they may be forced into making deeply damaging cuts to service provision in the current financial year. Cllr Smedley adds “So it is crucial that we make and win the case for proper compensation from Government. There will be no economic recovery without financially sustainable local government. Not only will councils have to make direct interventions to boost the local economy but there is a huge job to be done in co-ordinating different economic sectors, ensuring training and skills provision for people being made redundant, and planning public transport effectively.  We need to know now ‘what will be local governments role in the recovery’ and making the case for a properly funded response at the local-most level so that jobs, services and the environment are protected.”

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Roger Perren
Roger Perren
3 years ago

Can we be sure the conservative county and district controlled councils will use any avilable money wisely, Track records do not bode well.

3 years ago

Is anyone surprised that the Tory promise makers break their promises and lie continuously ….if you are wealthy you will be fine but if you are on the bread line you will suffer more than ever. The Tories will have to remember there will be a day of reckoning after this time of emergency is quietened down especially when the next election happens.

I am sick of the 1700hrs briefings as there are more and more lies and yes men and women making comments on the Tories behalf. Does it not make you sick that these people get away with all these mis-truths?

Anyway all I can say is Stay Safe everyone and dont let the bugs bite you!!!

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