Covid-19: Local Authority Shortfalls

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 28th April 2020.

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Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

What estimate he has made of shortfalls in funding for local authorities as a result of (a) additional expenditure, (b) loss of budgeted income and (c) inability to deliver planned savings during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Department is working closely with the sector to ensure that we have a well-rounded understanding of the impacts of covid-19 on its finances and capacity. We have already announced a significant package of additional funding worth over £3.2 billion, alongside introducing several other measures to support immediate cash flow concerns.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

I warmly welcome the steps that the Government have taken to support local government at this time and I put on record my thanks to council workers in Buckinghamshire Council for their professional and dynamic response to covid-19. To reflect a local concern, Buckinghamshire Council came together as a new unitary only on 1 April, and it estimates, from lost income streams and an inability to deliver the savings planned as it put those five councils into one, potential pressure of £22.5 million over three months and £67 million if the crisis extends to a year. Will my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that the Department is working with all councils to ensure that costs are fully met?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I echo my hon. Friend’s tribute to Buckinghamshire Council. To date, it has received £10.6 million of additional funding to support its response to covid-19 and it will receive further support from a second tranche of funding, as will other local authorities, for which allocations will be announced imminently. This month, Buckinghamshire will also receive an up-front payment of three months of social care grants, totalling £3.4 million. We are also deferring three months of the council’s payments to Government under the business rate retention scheme between April and June, which is worth £25 million. I hope that is of some help to the council and to my hon. Friend.