Speaking on Saturday 18 April, the Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced that a further £1.6 billion would be allocated to local councils, to ensure that “they are well placed to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services.”
He also praised the council workers, who he described as being “in the front line of the national effort to keep the public safe and deliver the services people need.”
The announcement came on the back of councils – including Ryedale District Council – providing information about the cost of COVID-19 to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government last week.
At Ryedale District Council, the financial impact assessment included the cost of extra demand on the council’s existing services, the cost of providing additional services to support vulnerable people, combined with the loss of income from paid-for services.
Speaking about the government’s funding announcement, Councillor Keane Duncan, Leader of Ryedale District Council, said:
“The Council’s first and foremost concern in this crisis has been to support the lives and livelihoods of Ryedale’s citizens, and we have been getting on with that job.
“We have paid out more than £15m in grants to small businesses in just a few short weeks. That’s not to mention the additional work that has gone on behind the scenes to make sure that benefits are paid to people who have now lost their income, homeless people get safe accommodation, and vulnerable people receive help and support during lockdown.
“The Council has risen to the challenge, but the cost of coping with a national emergency like COVID-19 was not in anyone’s budget plans.
“Ryedale District Council has been prudent with its finances, so we were in a better position than some local authorities. Nevertheless, the costs associated with COVID have been mounting. The government news about additional funding is encouraging, but we need to see just how much is being offered to our Council.”
The government has said that the money for councils will be paid through a grant, and that local authorities will be allowed to decide how and where the funding is spent.
Stacey Burlet, CEO of Ryedale District Council said:
“In times like these people rely on our services more than ever, and we have seen a huge uplift in people contacting the council over recent weeks. We were very pleased to hear the Local Government Secretary pay tribute to the huge effort that councils and their staff have been making to support citizens at this difficult time.
“Dealing with this crisis has meant extra cost and reduced income for the Council – COVID comes with a high price tag.
“We are doing everything necessary to monitor costs and manage our finances very carefully. Keeping our core services strong is the priority – and that is what we will continue to do.”