Column: COVID-19 and Council funding

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 27th November 2020:

Vital local services cannot be run on warm words alone, but, unfortunately, it seems that is what the Government expects of them.

Barnsley Council have done a fantastic job in supporting residents through the pandemic, but that comes at an expected cost, to the end of March, of £50M.

This includes around £34M to support the most vulnerable, as well as support for the social care market and businesses.

The Council also estimates lost income of around £16M from council tax, business rates and fees.

To date the Government’s income compensation scheme is only expected to provide £2M to cover this.

The shortfall in government support leaves our council at a loss of £15M.

Of course, this all follows a decade of austerity, in which Barnsley received the biggest cuts in government support of any council in the country.

If the Government do not reverse their position and provide councils with adequate financial support, the inevitable result of this is not only a council with less capacity and resilience in supporting public health at a vital time.

It is essential services, which have already been decimated over recent years, being cut even further.

From bin collections, street cleaning and libraries to children’s services, social care and homelessness support.

Councils touch every corner of our country and are vital for our communities.

As I raised in my speech in Parliament this week, during the pandemic we have relied on them to wholly and rapidly reorient themselves in a way that we could have never envisaged.

Day in, day out, they are on the frontline.

They are leading the fight against the virus, all whilst providing the essential services that we all rely on.

For this, they were promised ‘whatever it takes’ by the Government.

That they should do whatever was needed, and the Government would ensure that they - and we as local council tax payers - weren’t left out of pocket.

But, sadly, the rhetoric hasn’t yet been matched by reality - certainly not for Barnsley.

With many independent bodies warning that many of these costs may become permanent, such as additional costs for social care, the financial context becomes even more serious.

Our area cannot afford to be left behind by government for another decade.

Councils cannot fund vital services with claps on the doorstep - and key workers, who’s pay the government is set to freeze, certainly cannot pay the bills with them either.

The Government needs to step up to the plate and be true to its word - because our communities cannot afford anything less.

I will continue to fight for our area and raise these issues with the Government.

My office remains open to all constituents who need support. My email is [email protected].

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  • Stephanie Peacock
    published this page in Coronavirus 2020-11-27 14:12:29 +0000