Council face £27.3m blackhole due to COVID-19

Council face £27.3m blackhole due to COVID-19

by Tom Martin (June 2020)

SEFTON Council has made a desperate plea to the government for more funding after it was revealed they face a huge £27.3million black hole due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The local authority is pleading with Boris Johnson to release additional support for a borough which has been left under significant financial pressure due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, June 25, the council discussed how they are suffering due to a loss of earnings through leisure centres, which remain closed, as well as car parking charges, council tax reductions for people moving to Universal Credit and a loss of income from business rates as more businesses close down.

In total, the council has predicted a loss of £44.8million, which has been reduced to £27.3m after the government released grants totalling £17.5m.

That leaves the local authority with a shortfall of £27.3million, which they say is too much to handle and they now need more financial support.

Council leader Ian Maher said: “The first round of funding from Government was based on need, but the second round was based on population. Government funding so far has been insufficient to cover costs and lost revenues and is based on an unfair formula.

“Sefton Council, as with many other local authorities, has stepped up, and gone above and beyond what the Government asked us to do to support our communities during the pandemic.

“We now need to secure further Government funding that meets our specific immediate needs and supports Sefton’s longer-term recovery.

“If we don’t get the financial support we need, then ultimately our communities will pay in the long term for the short-term lockdown measures.

"Everyone in our communities knows the sacrifice and the loss we have endured through the coronavirus crisis, it is beyond belief that the government is not standing by our communities in their hour of need.

“The Government needs to understand the impact of them not responding to the issues that many local authorities are facing. 

“Protecting our communities, our colleagues, our families, our friends and our vulnerable from this deadly virus in one of the worst-hit areas in the country has meant Sefton, and other councils across Merseyside, have been spending huge amounts of additional funds.

“This additional demand on already hard-hit council budgets comes at a time when ensuring everyone’s safety has meant a significant proportion of our normal income from day to day activities has all but dried up. 

"As Leader of Sefton Council, my team and I will do whatever we can to shield those most in need from these cuts, but the reality is that if ministers don’t fulfil their promise and close the funding gap, then frontline services will bear the brunt and people will suffer.

“The impact of COVID-19 on our economy means now more than ever we need clarity from government on the financial support they will be giving to local authorities, so that we can plan for our recovery, and progress with projects that will create thousands of jobs in Sefton.

“The Government said it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to enable councils to support local communities. We are now asking the Prime Minister to keep that promise.”

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