North-East councils are calling on the government for a financial settlement that allows them to continue responding to the coronavirus pandemic while providing the services people rely upon.
Writing on behalf of all 12 local authorities in the region, Cllr Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and chair of the Association of North East Councils, is seeking an assurance that resources will be made available in the Local Government Financial Settlement, as local authorities consider their budgets for 2021/22 and medium-term financial plans.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Cllr Henig explains that keeping funding at its current levels will simply not cover the shortfalls faced due to ongoing pressures in social care, national living wage increases and other challenges caused by the pandemic.
He highlights how councils across the region have been working tirelessly to support communities and businesses during the outbreak, and says it is critical local authorities are not left in the position of having to cut budgets going forward.
Cllr Henig writes: “We need a settlement that does not require us to make cuts to services going forward and which allows us to concentrate on our response, and recovery from, coronavirus.”
In the letter, Cllr Henig sets out the key areas in which councils require support from the Government.
This includes certainty and the timing of the Local Government Finance Settlement, with leaders urging the minister for a long-term and sustainable package of support and for the details of this to be shared as soon as possible.
He ends the letter by emphasising the importance of extending the additional funding to cover the expenditure pressures and income loss caused by the outbreak into the next financial year.
Cllr Henig said: “This letter has been sent because all twelve North East councils agree that these issues need to be resolved urgently, and by mid-November at the latest, to allow us to plan our budgets.
“Our region has experienced years of historic underfunding and faces acute challenges in terms of health inequalities and unemployment following the decline of traditional industries.
“A large proportion of our workforce is also employed in the hospitality and service sectors and the impact of the pandemic has and continues to be a major issue that needs to be addressed.
“We are working hard to support our communities and businesses through this difficult time, while keeping ambitious plans to regenerate the region on track and developing new opportunities to safeguard and create jobs.
“To do this, we need assurances that our region will receive a fair and sustainable financial settlement that recognises the challenges we face.”