Northamptonshire councils given below-average £14.48 per person in new emergency coronavirus government grants

'Many costs will occur in the next few months so it is too early to say whether or not it will be enough'

Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 4:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 5:22 pm

Northamptonshire councils received £14.48 per person in new emergency government support to help it through the coronavirus crisis – less than the average award.

Local government minister Robert Jenrick has announced a £919 million fourth round of emergency grants to English local authorities, totalling £4.6 billion since March.

The county council and the seven borough and district councils were given £11,047,480 in the latest tranche, equalling a total of £55,572,639 - or £72.84 per person.

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Northamptonshire County Council has received £8,362,994 in the latest round of funding, taking the total to £43,728,088 since March

Council leaders across the country have welcomed the additional funding but warned it will not be enough to fully address the financial challenges they face.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “The county council has received £8,362,994 in the latest round of funding, taking the total to £43,728,088 since March.

“The council welcomes any additional funding and it will help to meet the additional costs associated with the current increase in cases, and winter-related pressures.

“Many of these costs will occur in the next few months, so it is too early to say whether or not it will be enough.”

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick

Below the county council, Northampton Borough Council (NBC) received the largest amount in the fourth round of government funding - £1,225,563.

South and East Northamptonshire councils got the least - £100,000 each - equal to just over £1 per person.

An NBC spokesman said: “In the August report to Cabinet we were projecting an overspend of £0.939 million, the additional funding of £1.225 million is likely to eliminate the need to draw from reserves to fund the running of the council.

“The un-ringfenced element of the funding will allow us to cover the cost of maintaining day-to-day services such as emptying bins, housing and homeless services etc at a time that budget income streams are not available and we incur additional costs in administering all of the Government-announced schemes.

“At present, the total grants provide an adequate level of support for the council in its current state of Covid and the increasing demands on staff and services.

"However if we are asked to deliver more, we may need to draw on reserves or seek more funding.

“As part of the assistance we have provided, we have supported charitable organisations to the tune of almost £85,000 in their response to Covid-19, including small grants from Councillors to local good causes which support the community and may have lost their income sources.”

The grants are not ringfenced, so cash-strapped councils under pressure because of the pandemic will be able to use them however they see fit.

The coronavirus crisis has created a 'perfect storm' for councils’ finances by increasing spending and reducing incomes, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Local authorities have incurred costs supporting rough sleepers and shielders, buying PPE and helping with test and trace and infection control, while social distancing rules have increased costs of delivering services like social care.

At the same time, their income from service charges, council tax and commercial rents has fallen.

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “This much-needed support is helpful but significant challenges remain.

“It is vital that the Government addresses in full the financial challenges facing councils as a result of the pandemic, including all lost income and local tax losses.”

The latest round of funding is equivalent to £16.21 for every person in England. Overall, councils have been given £80.71 per head in emergency grants since March.

Authorities in London will benefit most from the latest round, with an average of £24.12 per person.

Those in the South West meanwhile have been awarded an average of £9.11 per person, the lowest rate in England.

The figures do not include individual support packages being negotiated by councils moving into Tier 3 restrictions, such as Greater Manchester, which had asked for £65 million to see it through a winter in lockdown.

Carl Les, finance spokesman for the County Councils Network, said the latest funding announcement was “unexpected and disappointing” for county authorities, warning it was not proportionate to the scale of the problems they face.

“Our members were already facing a funding shortfall, and it is critical that all councils receive the funding they need to cover additional expenditure, which will increase over the winter months,” he said.

“Even if these resources were proportionate, county authorities still face severe financial uncertainty in the next financial year and beyond, with underlying funding gaps exacerbated by coronavirus.”

The Government says its funding formula takes into account an area’s population size, levels of deprivation, the cost of delivering services in different parts of the country, and how much funding councils received in the previous three rounds.

The secretary of state for housing, communities and local government said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have backed local councils with the funding they need to support their communities, protect vital services and recover lost income.

“This extra £1 billion funding will ensure that councils have the resources that they need over the winter and continue to play an essential role on the front line of our response to the virus while protecting the most vulnerable and supporting local businesses.”