Southport Tory MP quizzed over “black hole” Sefton Covid cash cuts.

12th June 2020

Sefton Council has had nearly a quarter of its emergency funding slashed by the government as it tries to tackle the Coronavirus Crisis, it’s been revealed.

The authority has been handed a cut of nearly £2,400,000 (24%) in its emergency funding from the government, despite the huge extra demands its meeting to combat Covid-19.

According to the cross-party Local Government Association, councils in England are facing a total financial black hole of between £10 and £13 billion because of the cost pressures of fighting Covid-19, such as the sourcing of Personal Protective Equipment, and from lost income and savings opportunities.

So far, the government has allocated just £3.2 billion to councils to help ease the current pressure.

Now, Southport’s Conservative MP Damien Moore has been challenged to tackle the government over the shortfall across the Liverpool City Region and in particular to Sefton.

Norwood councillor Greg Myers says the authority has done much to help local residents in the crisis and deserves far better treatment from the Tory MP’s colleagues:

“It’s very odd that Southport’s MP recently made a lot in the media of how he’d be asking questions of the council about the decision to home asylum seekers here when he must have known all along it had actually been made by his own government via the Home Office but he then goes strangely quiet when it comes to this matter.”

“The council, along with the NHS and other key workers and the voluntary sector, has done a huge part of the heavy lifting when it comes to tackling this crisis and helping local residents in Southport and across the borough.”

“Somehow, the government thinks the appropriate response to that is to cut its emergency funding by a quarter and the Southport MP thinks the most appropriate response to that is silence. He should be furious in his rejection of it but instead, he’s nowhere to be seen. Why is he not taking the government to task over this?”

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“What’s worse is that Sefton Council is facing a possible across the board shortfall in funds of £40m due to combatting Covid – money that the government must make good or it will be disastrous for local services and those that depend on them.”

“Instead of liking a tweet in support of Dominic Cummings and then removing in the outcry afterwards, perhaps the local MP could instead stir himself to ensure that the government keeps its previous promises and that Sefton and its residents in Southport and beyond get the money and services they deserve?”

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick had said that the Government “would stand behind councils and give them the funding they need” but has since suggested that councils will not be fully reimbursed for all their Covid-related costs.

Analysis by the Local Government Association Labour Group though reveals that while councils in more affluent areas have seen an increase in funding, those in areas of higher deprivation have been handed a £126m cut overall after the second payment of emergency funding made by the Communities Secretary, despite many having the highest infection rates in the country.

Labour has warned that the black hole, if not filled, could see councils have to cut essential services like adult and children’s social care to stave off bankruptcy.

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Steve Reed MP, commented:

“The costs of fighting coronavirus have taken a financial toll on councils, that’s why Labour supported the Government when they promised to fund ‘whatever it takes’ to get communities through this pandemic.”

“But now the Government is cutting emergency funding for areas with the highest rates of Covid-19 infection and diverting it to areas that are suffering less: this money was earmarked for fighting Covid-19, so it must go to the communities that need it the most.

“Emergency funding should go to areas with the highest rates of infection – no community should be left facing cuts and job losses in local services because of the additional costs of fighting this terrible disease.”

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