Chief praises 'heroic' staff after Northumberland County Council sees total Government coronavirus support cash rise to £21.8million

Northumberland County Council has now received a total of £21.8million from the Government to help it through the Covid-19 crisis.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 20th July 2020, 11:34 am
Updated Monday, 20th July 2020, 11:34 am
Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services at Northumberland County Council
Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services at Northumberland County Council

At the start of the month, as previously reported, the Local Government Secretary revealed that another pot of £500million would be handed out to local authorities, alongside a scheme to cover a proportion of councils’ lost income.

And earlier this month it was revealed that Northumberland would receive £2.7million from this tranche of funding, on top of the £19.1million it received in the previous two rounds. This money is not ring-fenced and can be spent as the council sees fit.

Coun Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The staff at Northumberland have played a heroic role in coordinating the local response to coronavirus and I’m sure everyone in our community will join me in thanking them for everything they’ve done under extraordinary circumstances.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“Northumberland Conservatives are keen to get our county moving again and our Conservative Government said at the beginning of this crisis that they would stand behind our councils and I’m delighted that they have done, protecting local services and ensuring councils come through this difficult period with stable finances.

“This additional £2.7million shows they’ve continued to listen to local concerns and will protect local services in the county on which we all rely.”

However, in June, the local authority was predicting a £12million shortfall in its 2020-21 budget, over and above the additional £19.1million it had already received from the Government at that time.

The latest contribution will reduce that figure to under £10million, but the council also said that the deficit ‘could be significantly higher if recovery from the Covid-19 crisis takes longer than current forecasts suggest or if there is a further spike in infections’.

Meanwhile, a report warned that the financial impact of coronavirus on county councils could run over several years.

Commissioned by the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents England’s county local authorities, it shows that all 39 councils in the study – including Northumberland – could use up their available reserves by the 2021-22 financial year to cover a funding shortfall of £2.5billion.

As previously reported, the authority’s level of reserves at March 31 this year was a healthy £248.75million, but its aim is to call upon non-recurrent reserves only ‘as a means of last resort’.

Councils ‘playing vital role’

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Councils are playing a vital role in our national fight against coronavirus, providing a lifeline for so many and supporting communities at a time when they need it most.

“That’s why we are giving them an extra £500million – taking our total additional funding provided to £4.3billion – and now I have set out how this will be allocated to councils fairly based on the pressures they have told us they are facing.

“This comes on top of the co-payment scheme announced last week that will compensate councils for irrecoverable income losses from sales, fees and charges.”

This scheme will see the Government will cover authorities for 75p in every pound lost, where losses are more than 5% of planned income from sales, fees and charges.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, described this as ‘a step in the right direction’, but reiterated its call to the Government to meet all extra cost pressures and income losses from fees and charges and other sources, including commercial activity, in full.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper.

If you can, please do pick up a copy when you are at the shops. Thank you for your support.