Extra Government cash 'simply not enough' to help Sunderland plug coronavirus blackhole, says chief
The latest round of government funding is still ‘simply not enough’ to plug the blackhole in Sunderland’s finances caused by coronavirus.
Ministers have announced a further £500million of support for local authorities in England affected by the pandemic.
But bosses in Wearside again called for more help as fears mount that the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak could continue to be felt for years, with the cost to the city now estimated at more than £40million.
Cllr Paul Stewart, the council’s cabinet secretary, said: “The pandemic is obviously having a significant impact on the council this financial year.
“I am increasingly concerned about the impact into future financial years as the financial hardship for our residents, businesses and the council will not be limited to the short-term.
“While the additional allocation is welcomed, it is simply not enough.
“The Government must honour its commitment to support local authorities this year and into the future.”
The most recent round of funding for English councils, the third since the start of the pandemic, saw Sunderland handed an extra £2.8 million.
Previous handouts were worth £10.6million and £7.6million, giving the city about £21million in total to deal with rising costs and plummeting income from sources such as council tax and parking charges, due to the virus outbreak.
At a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet on July 14, held before confirmation of the latest funding allocations, Cllr Stewart warned the council was facing the prospect of ending the year overspent by £10million.
The government has promised a new scheme to provide further support for local authorities, which is expected to partly cover the costs of ‘irrecoverable income losses from sales, fees and charges’.
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.
“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.”