Coronavirus: Councils Warn of Service ‘Wind Down’ Without Fair Share of Government Cash
The coronavirus crisis is putting huge pressure on district councils, risking a winding down of critical services unless government provides a fair share of the £1.6 billion funding package announced at the weekend to help councils manage the impact of the pandemic.
The District Councils’ Network, which represents 191 district councils in England, says councils are continuing to deliver key services while taking a huge hit on their budgets as a result of the pandemic, and have issued a warning to government to recognise their urgent budget pressures when it distributes the money.
District councils have led the local charge to beat the Covid-19 health and economic crisis. They are supporting the vulnerable and the homeless, delivering lifelines to local businesses, continuing to collect bins and keep the streets clean, keeping parks open, and more.
But at the same time councils are seeing all income streams from car parking, leisure, planning and licensing plummet, and – as the authorities responsible for collecting tax for all councils, police, fire and others in their area – currently face liabilities dwarfing their finances should the collection rates fall.
As a proportion of budgets, the impact of responding to coronavirus is greater than any other type of council.
For all the critical services to continue over the weeks ahead, districts need a fair distribution of the new cash to help them deal with budget pressures relating to the crisis.
The DCN has suggested each district should receive minimum amount of temporary funding, supplemented with additional funding based on the number of residents and businesses in each area.
Cllr John Fuller OBE, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:
“District councils are the ones who are delivering the final mile of public services and have stretched every sinew of resource to step up to the plate and respond to this pandemic.
“We are sorting out the benefits for many of those hit the hardest by this crisis. We are keeping a roof over people’s heads and we have got rough sleepers off the streets.
“We are also channelling billions into small businesses, and we are still collecting the bins and keeping the streets clean.
“However, with the coronavirus crisis becoming more than just a health emergency, it’s an economic emergency too and our income has plummeted over the short term, a greater proportion than any other type of council.
“We cannot run services on fresh air. The additional £1.6 billion announced for local government is very welcome temporary help, districts need to see a significant share to prevent them winding down services when people and businesses need them most.”