Government pledges £1.6billion to help councils after South Tyneside chief among those pleading for promised funds

The Government has pledged an extra £1.6billion to help councils cope with the coronavirus crisis after pleas to the Prime Minister from council chiefs, including the top man at South Tyneside Council.

By Ross Robertson
Sunday, 19th April 2020, 12:13 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th April 2020, 1:12 pm
South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm (left) and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick (right)
South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm (left) and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick (right)

South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm penned an emotional letter to Boris Johnson, wishing him well in his recovery and urging the Government to make good on its promises of support.

The Government has now announced councils across England will receive another £1.6billion in additional funding as they continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said took the total given to councils to help their communities through the crisis to over £3.2 billion.

Mr Jenrick wrote to councils on Saturday April 18 announcing the support and praising ‘unsung heroes’.

He said: “I promised local government would have the resources they need to meet this challenge and today demonstrates my commitment to doing just that. We stand shoulder to shoulder with local government and my priority is to make sure they are supported so they can continue to support their communities through this challenging time.

“Up and down the country council workers are the unsung heroes as we tackle this virus. They are in the front line of the national effort to keep the public safe and deliver the services people need. Never has this been more important and we are all rightly grateful for everything that they are doing.

“This new funding will support them through immediate pressures they are facing to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services.”

In his letter, dated April 17, Coun Malcolm wrote: “Across the country, councils have gone way above and beyond normal responsibilities to protect and support our communities during this crisis.

“As essential frontline workers, staff from refuse collectors to care workers have continued to deliver critical services in the face of significant upheaval and new working conditions. Together with public and private sector

partners we are leading a whole community response, providing support to residents and businesses.

“As policies were announced at a national level, we responded at pace, recognising that local insights and networks are essential to quickly and effectively reach those who most need help.

“We have acted in good faith, establishing Shielding Hubs whilst the national food and medication programme was developed and reaching businesses, many of whom have never needed support before, to help them navigate and access the range of support being made available.

“Of course, all this could not be achieved without significant cost.”

Coun Malcolm said South Tyneside Council and other authorities across the county “have incurred direct and indirect costs” in responding to the crisis.

He said demand for PPE, closing non-essential services which generate income for the council, including leisure, car parking, rent, fees and surcharges had all put a drain on budgets.

“These income streams underpin the funding of local services and their absence makes balancing our books extremely challenging,” he said.

“We took heart from your own call, ‘local government is in the lead, resources will follow’, as well as the Chancellor's early promise that ‘our vital services will get whatever they need to protect this country and its people from Coronavirus’.”

He concluded with: “I ask Government not to breach our trust and to have the faith in local government that our communities have in us, recognising our critical contribution.

“Stand with local government, just as we have stood, in good faith, shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the rest of the public sector as this crisis has unfolded.

“I look forward to hearing from you and wish you well in your recovery.”

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