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Funding call made to Local Government minister

A call has been made for more funding to be made available to local government to help recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors from Middlesbrough Council's Corporate Affairs & Audit Committee have written to Local Government minister Simon Clarke MP to outline the financial position faced by the authority.

The committee has pointed to four factors significantly impacting the Council's finances. They are:

  • Direct costs of purchasing goods and services such as PPE equipment and care services;
  • Commercial income that the Council cannot generate, for example rents and parking charges;
  • Savings the Council can no longer deliver;
  • A lower council tax collection rate (of which the Council already has evidence) as a result of the difficult economic circumstances in which many will find themselves.

Committee chair Cllr Jon Rathmell wrote: "We have a responsibility to manage our resources effectively and for our costs not to exceed the resources we have available on an ongoing basis.

"The reserves we have to call on for such a situation are relatively low - the minimum level of our general reserve which is available for situations like this has been set at £9.4m and it is already at that minimum level.

"Without further funding we will be looking at reducing our services to the people of Middlesbrough at a time when they need those services the most - it could effectively end our provision of many non-statutory services.

"We hope that you would share our ambition that recovery takes place as quickly as possible."

Councillor Brian Hubbard, Vice Chair of the Committee, added: "It's unfortunate that the committee has found itself in a position of having to chase money owed by a Government that promised ‘everything that can be done, will be done.

"Middlesbrough Council spent money on this pandemic in good faith, in that every penny would be reimbursed. We shouldn't have to send out letters of this nature."

Cllr Denise Rooney, a member of the cross party Corporate Affairs & Audit Committee, said: "The impact of Covid-19 on our financial position is stark. It is imperative that the Government recognise the burden this has placed on local authorities and do what was promised at the beginning of the pandemic and provide the funding we desperately need.

"That is why as a committee we are calling on the Local Government minister Simon Clarke to recognise the situation we in Middlesbrough find ourselves in."

The Council's Mayor and Chief Executive have previously written to Local Government minister Mr Clarke on the same issue.

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