Council concerns over funding as snap General Election left local authority leaders ‘totally in the dark’

The decision to call a snap election has left regional leaders ‘totally in the dark’ over spending plans for next year.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 5:14 pm
The decision to call a snap election has left regional leaders ‘totally in the dark’ over spending plans for next year.

As the current financial year enters its final months, council bosses across the North East have been trying to make preparations for 2020/21’s budgets.

But the countdown to polling day, as well as a possible exit from the European Union, has left many unsure of how much cash may be available.

The decision was made in late October to hold a General Election on Thursday, December 12, after the Government failed to get backing for legislation that would see the UK leave the European Union.

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South Tyneside councillor Gladys Hobson said: “I think it’s frightening, we’re likely to lose European funding and I don’t think the people who voted for Brexit realise how much money was coming into the North East [from the EU].”

She added: “With having the election at this time of year we’re all waiting on the outcome of government grants and everything has just stopped, it’s all stalled.

“Nobody knows where we are financially, we’re totally in the dark.”

Coun Hobson was speaking at a meeting of the North East Combined Authority’s (NECA) Audit and Standards Committee on Tuesday, December 10.

A report on potential risks facing the combined authority over the next year raised questions over the funding available for the region, as well as the ability to secure any money in enough time for it to be used for earmarked projects.

The combined authority’s Leadership Board has so far received about £272,000 from the Government to ‘support its preparations for Brexit’.

“There’s seven risks altogether, six have remained stable but one of them has increased,” said Tracy Davis, a senior assurance manager at Sunderland City Council.

“This is the same issue we’re also seeing for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the North East Joint Transport Committee – the viability of future funding.

“Even if funding is replaced, we don’t know if the way it is distributed will be changed.”