Parliament resumes (semi-virtually) on April 21st. This letter asks our MPs to tell the government we urgently need more emergency funding for Calderdale, and explains why.
Update 22 April – This letter plus signatures has now been sent to Holly Lynch MP (with 42 Halifax constituents’ signatures) and to Craig Whittaker MP (with 94 Calder Valley constituents’ signatures).
Thanks to all who signed this open letter,
Open email: Please urgently demand that the government provides increased Covid19 emergency funding for local authorities
20 April 2020
Dear [Holly Lynch/Craig Whittaker]
I hope you and your family are well.
As your constituent, I ask you please to urgently demand the government provides increased emergency funding for local authorities, to cover their huge and unavoidable costs of protecting the public and frontline staff from Covid19 pandemic as best they can.
Central government’s £3.2bn Covid19 local authority grant funding to date is inadequate to pay for the tasks that Councils have had to take on.
Further emergency funding is particularly crucial since Councils’ income from business rates and other sources has been slashed by the drop in economic activity following the lockdown. And a decade of cuts in central government grants to local authorities has left many with no usable reserves to draw on.
You will probably already be familiar with the specifics of Calderdale Council’s situation, from a letter sent to the Prime Minister on 18th April by Calderdale Council Leader Cllr Tim Swift.
Of the first £1.6bn Covid19 emergency funding to local authorities, Calderdale Council has received £6.1m.
Calderdale Council’s desperate financial situation will not be solved by a further £6.1m from the additional £1.6bn the government announced two days ago
Cllr Swift points out that over the last few weeks, since the Council started carrying out its emergency response to the Covid19 pandemic, this has cost Calderdale £2.7m and the Council’s income has fallen by at least £2m. These losses are set to increase due to falling income from fees, rents, business rates and council tax.
Council officers estimate that the net impact over the year is likely to be at least £36m. So even with a further £6.1m from the second tranche of central government funding for local authorities, announced on 18th April, this is going to leave the Council short of £23.8m – about 15% of the total net budget.
Over the decade of central government cuts to local authority grants, Calderdale Council has had to make more than £100m cuts to its services and staffing, which means there is nothing left to cut.
It is unthinkable that Calderdale Council should throw the public to the Covid19 wolf, by cutting social care and support to the most vulnerable members of the public who are relying on food and support distributed by volunteers. And that is before we even get to business and job support, accommodation and help for homeless people, and the need to buy more Personal Protective Equipment for social care and NHS staff because the national distribution system has so far been ineffective.
More than 3 weeks ago, the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services stressed the urgent need for Government to move faster in making Personal Protective Equipment available for the adult social care sector.
“Sufficient supplies that are of acceptable quality are needed immediately. Councils and their provider partners also need concrete assurances about ongoing supplies for the days and weeks ahead.”
Lack of effective action since then meant that over the weekend of 11/12 April, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services told the Secretary of State for Health that government efforts to provide carers with protective equipment have been ‘shambolic’. Their leaked letter said deliveries were ‘paltry’ at first and later ‘haphazard’.
This has left Calderdale Council with the cost of making grants to voluntary groups that are producing Personal Protective Equipment, and of co-chartering a plane to China with other West Yorkshire councils, to bring back Personal Protective Equipment.
There is also an urgent need to resume the Covid19 containment process of testing, contact tracing and quarantining that the government inexplicably abandoned on 13th March.
Any attempt to lift the lockdown cannot safely be made in the absence of effective public health capacity for containing further outbreaks of the virus. The Council’s public health budget has been cut year on year by central government and it will need money to carry out community testing, contact tracing and quarantining.
There are many other calls on Calderdale Council, if we in Calderdale are to come through this pandemic with the least possible social injustice and loss of life.
On 18th April the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jennick MP, wrote to “the unsung heroes in local government”,
“My role as Local Government Secretary is to make sure you have everything you need to carry out this vital work…I said that I would ensure you had the resources you needed to do the job, and I meant it. I promised that I would champion your cause and fight your corner as we work together, and I meant it.”
So please take advantage of the (semi-virtual) recall of Parliament on 21st April to hold Robert Jennick MP to his word, and tell him in particular, and the government in general, that it is vital for the people of Calderdale that central government immediately commits to providing a further £24m Covid 19 emergency funding, at least, to Calderdale Council.
Jenny Shepherd, HX7 8HQ (Calder Valley)
Hazel McGrath, HX7 6DQ, (Calder Valley)
Warren Nicholls, HX6 1EN (Halifax)
Paul Brownbill, HX5 9PB (Calder Valley)
Freda Davis, HX6 3 (Calder Valley)
Charles Gate, HX2 7JW (Halifax)