Home Coronavirus: News and Advice City Region’s leaders challenge “very disappointing” Government funding
Cllr Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council

City Region’s leaders challenge “very disappointing” Government funding

by Gemma Melling

The Metro Mayor, Mayor and Leaders of the Liverpool City Region’s six local councils, including Knowsley, have expressed their grave concerns that the Government’s second allocation of Covid19 funding could leave the City Region hundreds of millions of pounds out of pocket.

The announcement, made by Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), shows that in this second round of funding the government has allocated £16.6 million LESS to the Liverpool City Region. That’s a reduction of 28% overall, with some areas like Knowsley being hardest hit with a 39% drop from its first allocation. This is the fifth highest cut in the whole of the UK, for the borough that is the second most deprived in the country.

In a joint response to the Government, the Leaders challenge the methodology behind the second allocation which is based purely on population count as opposed to whether areas actually need extra support from Government. This is a different approach to the first round of funding that recognised the pressures individual areas were facing.

As a result, those areas which need more have lost out, and the impact has been significant across the City Region, specifically when it comes to social care.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said: “I simply cannot fathom the logic that says an area already disadvantaged by deprivation should get less funding to tackle the devastating impact of Coronavirus than a very affluent one, where residents are much less reliant of the support of their local council. In Knowsley, we’re already forecasting that our response to the Coronavirus outbreak will be in the region of £20m – and we have no idea yet how long this crisis will last.

“In working out the funding to be provided based on an arbitrary population count, the Government is failing to take into account any of the local needs and challenges. They were able to make that assessment in allocating the first round of funding, so what has changed?

“Here in Knowsley we have a high number of families who are now almost entirely dependent on the support we are providing to feed their families. The pressures on our adult social care system are immense. When the Government is leaning so heavily on local authorities to deliver the support that is needed, the very least they can do is make sure we are funded adequately to do it.

“Because if we are left millions of pounds out of pocket – having already shouldered the impact of a decade of severe cuts to our public services – the recovery we all hope will follow this pandemic will be a very tough ask indeed.”

From both allocations, the six councils have received £102million, which is less than half of the £239million which they estimate they will need to cope with the impact of COVID-19 over just the next six months.

In addition to this, the Combined Authority is also losing around £1.2million a week – £62million over a year – and has received no additional funding at all as yet, with transport also requiring sustainable funding support.

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “Local councils and the Combined Authority are on the front line in supporting our communities through this crisis and the government is already heavily relying on them to deliver essential support and services at this time of crisis, like providing PPE, transport, social care and keeping other essential public services running.

But let’s not forget this pressure comes on top of a decade of austerity, during which local authorities budgets have been cut to the bone – especially in the City Region.  The local authorities have little or no flexibility remaining to deal with the impact and pick up the potentially extreme financial burden.

“This proposed settlement falls way short of what is needed and we are now making robust representations to urge the Government to urgently reconsider the funding allocation and provide the funds we really need to tackle the crisis now – and to recover from it – together.”