Parliament has now resumed (semi-virtually). This open letter asks our Kirklees MPs to tell the government we urgently need more emergency Covid-19 funding for Kirklees Council, and explains why.
If you agree, please sign this letter by adding your name, postcode and constituency in the comments/reply box at the bottom of this webpage. The reason for giving your postcode and constituency is the MPs only accept correspondence from their own constituents. The deadline is 10am, Monday 27th April, when we will send the letter to each MP, with their constituents’ signatures.
Open email: Please urgently demand that the government provides increased Covid19 emergency funding for Kirklees Council
24 April 2020
Dear Barry/Sheerman/Jason McCartney/Tracy Brabin/Mark Eastwood,
As your constituent, I ask you please to urgently demand the government provides increased emergency funding for Kirklees Council, 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 across the country 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 Kirklees Council’s situation, from a letter sent to the Prime Minister on 17th April by Kirklees Council Leader Cllr Shabir Pandor.
Of the government’s first £1.6bn Covid19 emergency funding to local authorities, Kirklees Council has received £12.3m.
Kirklees Council’s financially vulnerable situation will not be solved by a further £12.3m from the additional £1.6bn the government announced recently.
Cllr Pandor points out that over the last few weeks since the Council started carrying out its emergency response to the Covid19 pandemic, it has incurred significant monthly income losses that could end up costing the Council £50m.
Over the past decade of central government cuts to local authority grants, Kirklees Council has had to make more than £200m cuts to its services and staffing, which means there is nothing left to cut.
Lack of extra Covid19 emergency funding from central government would have a devastating impact on Kirklees’ most vulnerable residents, communities, the NHS, the whole care sector and the local economy.
In addition, 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.
It seems that ministers expect many council staff to be redeployed to trace the contacts of those who could have Covid-19, and other staff recruited for the purpose, without extra funding being provided to undertake the mammoth task. Even if the second £1.6bn is allocated before Councils have to employ these contact tracers, it will not be enough when all the other demands on Councils are taken into account.
On 18th April the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 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 now that Parliament is again sitting (semi-virtually) please 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 Kirklees that central government immediately commits to covering Kirklees Council’s costs in responding to the Covid 19 emergency.
After all, central government can create the money to pay for this as it is the controller of the central bank and the local authority is not.
Please add your name, postcode and constituency in the comments box, below.