COVID-19 CRISIS: DISTRICT COUNCILS CALL FOR FURTHER FUNDING GUARANTEES
Plummeting income as a result of the coronavirus crisis has put many local council services on the edge with latest figures showing district councils have been the worst affected.
The District Councils’ Network, which represents 187 district councils in England, is calling for a comprehensive package of funding in the months ahead, with urgent clarity required for the medium term.
While the Government has provided extra funding and flexibility for councils to lead the local response to the crisis, this has not been enough to cover falls in income that district councils depend upon, such as car parking, leisure centres, council tax and business rates.
The DCN is warning that the latest government data shows that the total challenge brought about by the coronavirus crisis has cost district councils more than twice as much as they have received in money so far.
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.
Latest government figures show that district councils have experienced a total financial pressure of £603 million in the last three months, while receiving additional government grant of £223 million so far, alongside some financial flexibilities.
The DCN says it is vital the Government urgently announces a comprehensive and much-needed funding package which will enable districts to manage the huge financial challenges they face both now and in the short-term.
This should include a lost income guarantee and an underwriting of unrecoverable costs to stabilize a sector that creates better lives and has the statutory, regulatory and licensing powers to secure the fastest possible recovery.
District councils have done everything they can to respond to 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.
Councillor John Fuller OBE, Chairman of the DCN, said:
“Councils have welcomed the much-needed funding announced by government since the start of the coronavirus crisis, which has come alongside other welcome financial flexibilities.
“However, latest figures show that, above all, it is our district councils that need comprehensive package for lost income and the most critical front line issues like tackling homelessness, collecting bins and sustaining leisure, fitness and health services.
“District councils have innovated to ensure every final mile service has been sustained. We now need government to be flexible in funding and forbearing in regulating finance to allow us a multi-year approach to helping our residents and ourselves get back on our feet.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Local authority COVID-19 financial impact monitoring information, Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-authority-covid-19-financial-impact-monitoring-information
- The financial risk and resilience of English local authorities in the coronavirus crisis, Institute of Fiscal Studies: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14893