Government responds to NALC's call for clarity over the latest funding for councils
The government has confirmed local (parish and town) councils are not included in their latest financial support package for local government, with district and unitary councils still expected to help them with funding.
A further £500m of non-ringfenced grant, a new scheme to reimburse lost income during the pandemic, and changes to spread tax deficits over three years have been announced by the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP.
However, following the announcement, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) called on the government to clarify whether the funding package was for all tiers of local government, including local councils also impacted through lost income to car parks, museums, and cultural and community assets.
NALC research suggests a funding black hole of around £50 million from additional expenditure and lost income in the first three months of this financial year.
Responding to a series of questions, including from NALC, after his speech to the Local Government Association's online conference, local government minister Simon Clarke MP added "I really do want to say a thank you to parish and town councils, who have been doing amazing work. I had a good meeting with NALC and hear the voice of the sector loudly and clearly [on funding]". He then went on to say "can all councils work closely with parish and town councils…who have funding needs and do consider this when allocating your funding".
Officials from MHCLG have subsequently provided further clarification to NALC, commenting: "The government has taken some steps to support parish and town councils such as offering support for Public Works Loan Board debt repayments. Unlike local authorities, parish and town councils are also already protected from the impact of collection fund deficits.
"We are confident that for a majority of parish councils this support should be sufficient. We are aware that for a small minority of parish councils this support may not be enough and we will be further assessing what support is required over the coming weeks.
"We would urge all parish and town councils to speak to their principal authority (district or unitary council). In his letters of 29 April and 6 July, the secretary of state has encouraged those authorities to facilitate discussions with parish and town councils performing COVID-19 related services."
NALC chairman, Cllr Sue Baxter, said: "While this clarification is welcome, I am disappointed this latest funding package for local government does not, in fact, apply to all local government including local councils. Particularly those small number of local councils most impacted through irrecoverably lost income to car parks, museums, and cultural and community assets, but who will see their principal councils reimbursed.
"Help with local with loan repayments is welcome and I am pleased the government has committed to working with NALC to assess what further support is required. I will continue to press for measures put forward by NALC such as fast-tracking legislation to exempt public toilets from business rates and a dedicated fund to help councils most impacted from lost income. I would urge local councils to contact their district or unitary council to request funding".
Posted: Mon, 13 Jul 2020 13:56 by Alison Robinson