Budget - Leader Cllr Sam Corcoran - mental health champions

Cheshire East Council leaders have criticised as “wholly inadequate” a government funding package to help councils hit by COVID-19 costs.

Leader and Deputy Leader Cllr Sam Corcoran and Cllr Craig Browne said most of the £27 billion headlining the announcement had already been delivered to businesses in grants.

And they claim the additional grant funding is only £500 million in total between all councils.

There is set to be a separate package of funding to compensate for lost income from sales, fees and charges.

But they claim this will only be up to 75p in the £1 and only if income has reduced beyond five per cent.

The council says it has not yet received detail on the actual allocation to the local authority.

A report to the council’s Ccabinet next week spells out that Cheshire East faces additional cost pressures of £70 million this year alone due to coronavirus.

Government emergency funding had so far provided £19.7m towards this.

Cllr Corcoran and Cllr Browne said: “We welcome the additional funding announced by the government.

“However, strip away the misleading headlines and the re-announcement of money already committed and you see that funding for local authorities, such as Cheshire East, is simply inadequate to meet the additional costs we are experiencing.

“Of the £27bn announced, more than £20bn went straight to businesses – which they desperately need.

“To be clear, it was not provided to support council services or our very real financial pressures.

“Cheshire East Council continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“At the same time, we are continuing to deliver essential local services which protect our most vulnerable people and support our communities and local businesses.

“Analysis of this month’s financial returns shows that these costs are particularly acute in adult social care, children’s social care and home-to-school transport.

“Local government secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement yesterday said he was unveiling ‘a major new support package to help councils respond to coronavirus’ as part of ‘a comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability for the future’.

“The reality is that it does no such thing. We do not yet know the lasting impact of the pandemic – but we do know that, even with anticipated additional government funding, we will experience unprecedented financial pressure this financial year and for years to come.

“Although today’s measures are welcome, with costs continuing to rise from tackling coronavirus and no guarantees over compensation for lost council tax and business rates, the council still faces financial uncertainty.

“In line with other councils, Cheshire East will continue to lobby the government to cover the full costs of Covid to local authorities, as originally promised.

“This work continues, supported by our colleagues in the Local Government Association and County Council’s Network.”

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