Town hall finance chief describes £2.5m coronavirus cash boost as ‘drop in the ocean’
PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 July 2020
The town hall’s finance chief has described a £2.4million boost to the council’s coronavirus hit coffers as “a drop in the ocean”.
Cllr Dominic Twomey, cabinet member for finance at Barking and Dagenham Council, demanded a “hand up, not a hand out” after the local authority’s share of a £500m pot for councils was announced on July 16.
“Last week’s announcement was very disappointing for Barking and Dagenham. We received just £2.4m which leaves us facing a huge shortfall in our budget in the coming year.
“The government’s announcement is another short-term solution. It does not reflect the amount we have spent over the last four months nor the income we have lost in responding to the coronavirus pandemic,” Cllr Twomey said.
The borough’s total represents a 2.8 per cent share of the total funding allocated to the capital.
It compares to £4m for Newham and £2.1m for Havering.
The government has funded councils to the tune of £4.3billion. Of that, £3.7bn is not ringfenced, meaning local authorities can choose how its spent.
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Local government secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Councils are playing a vital role in our national fight against coronavirus, providing a lifeline for so many communities at a time when they need it most.”
Barking and Dagenham reports £26.63m in income losses for the first four months of the year, half of which is from lost business rates and council tax.
A total of £5.72m in planned savings was shelved to divert resources towards the town hall Covid-19 response.
The council also spent an extra £12.46m to keep services going during the pandemic.
Adding lost income – including from fees, charges and commercial investments – takes the total to £40m.
“The £2.4m announced last week is a drop in the ocean and does not come close to what we need to balance our books and we are none the wiser how the government will help plug the gap,” Cllr Twomey said.
He vowed the council would continue to balance its books, but demanded fair funding.
Projects including work on the A13 and Barking Riverside – estimated to generate more than 20,000 homes and 12,000 jobs – could kickstart the economy, but a stimulus package to maintain everyday services was needed.
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