Row over Sunderland City Council's dire financial straits

City leaders have accused opposition chiefs of failing to back demands for more cash to help Sunderland through the coronavirus outbreak.

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 4:11 pm
Sunderland Civic Centre

And while warning the pandemic’s financial fallout could continue into next year and beyond, Labour Party bosses at Sunderland City Council have called for greater cross-party consensus on the issue.

“We have consistently demanded additional funding from the government,” said Councillor Paul Stewart, the city council’s cabinet secretary.

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“The local Conservative group has not only failed to support demands but repeated, like a broken record, that there is no more money from the government and we should use our limited reserves.

“It appears we have more faith in this government to deliver on its funding promises than its own local Conservative group.”

He added: “I call again on the local Conservative group to join us in seeking a commitment from the government that they will continue to provision additional financial support to local councils and hold them to their promise to do whatever it takes.”

Cllr Stewart was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) ruling cabinet, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The city council currently has savings worth almost £170million, but most of this has already been earmarked for projects and other schemes, leaving about £12million in the unallocated ‘General Fund’.

Finance chiefs have warned dipping into cash reserves now could leave Wearside vulnerable to future, more sudden financial shocks, especially if there is not also a suitable plan to replenish the funds once spent.

He added: “[I have previously said] the government should provide more money to councils as well as a package of measures to ease their financial burden over the next few years.

“It is welcomed news that Cllr Stewart has faith in the government.

“I hope he will work constructively in the interests of the city rather than trying to point score off the back of what could easily become an economic crisis.”

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