Barking and Dagenham Council chiefs slam government for ‘not going far enough’ to support people

Cllr Dominic Twomey claimed the government had not gone far enough in the financial support pledged

Cllr Dominic Twomey claimed the government had not gone far enough in the financial support pledged so far. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

The government has not gone far enough to support vulnerable people and back town halls, councillors have said.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Darren Rodwell told fellow members it was “embarrassing” how the government has found £300billion for the private sector, but not given local authorities the same support.

The borough has received £2.2million from a £500m pot set up to support people struggling to pay council tax as well as £6.3m from a £1.6bn pot for small to medium sized businesses.

A further £1.6bn cash injection for town halls was announced by housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick on April 17.

Deputy leader Cllr Dominic Twomey said: “I would like to thank the chancellor, but this does not go far enough to support the most vulnerable in our communities or the businesses affected.

“We as a council are rising to the challenge, but we need the proper backing to achieve lasting support to enable residents to come out of the crisis and return to a life which is sustainable and helps them to thrive, and not just survive, in the long term.”

He urged the government to stop the “piecemeal” funding of local government and provide full financial support so local authorities could support communities “through these unprecedented times” during an online council meeting on April 21.

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Cllr Rodwell added that councils have warned the government that if they, as the “fourth emergency service”, aren’t fully supported, then the job of central government and “blue light emergency services” would become even harder.

Councillors heard it would not take long before the £2.2m for council tax support ran out with uncertainty surrounding how many more people would come forward for help in the future.

And the local authority is considering what support it can provide smaller businesses which don’t qualify for help under existing coronavirus support schemes. Owners were urged to contact Barking and Dagenham’s business rates team or their councillor.

There are more than 2,000 businesses eligible for existing support, with 654 grants given out as of April 16.

“We’re doing all we can to reach everybody,” Cllr Twomey said.