Chichester Labour has welcomed news of additional funding for local councils. The government announcement of an additional £1.6 billion will be used to support efforts in the battle against Covid-19.
Chichester City & District Labour Councillor, Kevin Hughes said “When this crisis began, local authorities were told unequivocally to spend whatever was necessary and the government would cover the cost. Councils went ahead on that basis. Then, last week, the Government began backtracking on its promise and threw this in to doubt. So, while the announcement of an ‘extra’ £1.6 Billion is welcome, it would also be good if the government reassured councils that the original promise will be kept. Of course, this would not be so important if councils, including Chichester District, had not been forced to rely on fees and charges to the vast degree that they do thanks to ten years of Tory cuts to local government funding.”
The Local Government Association had set out the size of the funding gap in local government – the calculated shortfall was to be £5.8bn by 2019/20, plus £1.3bn needed to stabilise the care system, £7.1bn in total.
Phil Wilson who set up the Chichester Covid-19 Mutual Aid group also commented, “We have seen the community come together like never before but this whole saga has exposed the fragility of our vital public services after 10 years of austerity. After the crisis we need to reevaluate the importance we place on such services and the key workers that have continued to support us, and yet many of whom are the poorest paid in our workforce.”
The announcement comes as a Sunday Times report claims much of the pandemic preparations were hampered by the spending cuts of the previous decade and with resources and effort diverted towards the planning for a no-deal Brexit.
Steve Reed MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, responding to the announcement, commented:
“The additional money announced today is a welcome start, but it is nowhere near enough. Councils are facing a financial black hole because of the costs of getting emergency help to vulnerable people and years of the underfunding of local government. If the Government breaks their promise to fund whatever’s necessary then cuts will follow and some of the frontline workers we’re all cheering will lose their jobs.
“The Government must not betray their promise to communities and the heroes on the front line at this time of national emergency.”