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Cheshire East leaders say government’s funding announcement is ‘wholly inadequate’

Cheshire East’s leaders have criticised as ‘wholly inadequate’ a government announcement of a new funding package to help councils hit by the huge costs of tackling Covid-19.

A joint statement from leader Councillor Sam Corcoran and deputy leader Councillor Craig Browne said most of the £27bn headlining the announcement had already been delivered directly to businesses by way of grant.

The leaders pointed out the additional grant funding is actually £500m in total between all councils. There will also be a separate package of funding to compensate for lost income from sales, fees and charges – but this will only be up to 75p in the £1 and only if income has reduced beyond five per cent.

The council has not yet received enough detail on the actual allocation to the local authority but what is clear is that the proposals are not sufficient and the government is expecting councils to bear the brunt of the financial pain from the pandemic.

A report to the council’s cabinet next week spells out that Cheshire East faces additional cost pressures of £70m this year alone due to coronavirus.

Government emergency funding had so far provided £19.7m towards this.

Cllr Corcoran and Cllr Browne said in a joint statement today: “We welcome the additional funding announced by the government yesterday. However, strip away the misleading headlines and the re-announcement of money already committed and you see that funding for local authorities, such as Cheshire East, is simply inadequate to meet the additional costs we are experiencing.

“Of the £27bn announced, more than £20bn went straight to businesses – which they desperately need. To be clear, it was not provided to support council services or our very real financial pressures.

“Cheshire East Council continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, we are continuing to deliver essential local services which protect our most vulnerable people and support our communities and local businesses.

“Analysis of this month’s financial returns shows that these costs are particularly acute in adult social care, children’s social care and home-to-school transport.

“Local government secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement yesterday said he was unveiling ‘a major new support package to help councils respond to coronavirus’ as part of ‘a comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability for the future’.

“The reality is that it does no such thing. We do not yet know the lasting impact of the pandemic – but we do know that, even with anticipated additional government funding, we will experience unprecedented financial pressure this financial year and for years to come. 

“Although today’s measures are welcome, with costs continuing to rise from tackling coronavirus and no guarantees over compensation for lost council tax and business rates, the council still faces financial uncertainty.

“In line with other councils, Cheshire East will continue to lobby the government to cover the full costs of Covid to local authorities, as originally promised.

“This work continues, supported by our colleagues in the Local Government Association and County Council’s Network.”

Pictured - Councillor Sam Corcoran (left) and Councillor Craig Browne, the leader and deputy leader of Cheshire East Council.

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