The Leader of Richmond Council and Lead Member of Finance have written to local MPs to reiterate their concerns regarding the spiralling costs of the Council’s COVID-19 response ahead of the Government’s spending review.
Cllr Gareth Roberts and Cllr Robin Brown have asked the MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney and MP for Kingston and Surbiton Ed Davey to speak up for local communities to raise awareness of the funding pressures the Council faces as a result of the pandemic.
Roberts said: “Whilst the Government has given us some funding to help during the pandemic, is quite clear that we require significantly more, in order to allow us to do whatever is necessary to protect residents, communities and our local economy.
“As we plan ahead it is essential that central government ensures councils have the funding required to keep providing the local services that people, communities and businesses rely on.”
Brown added: “Many councils are at a financial breaking point with no certainty ahead about the financial settlement they can expect from government, or the extra COVID demands that could be placed on them in the future, and Richmond is no exception.
“The ongoing health and social impact of responding to the pandemic could be disastrous for Richmond financially.
“As an organisation delivering frontline services in the fight against the virus, we need more financial support from government if we are going to be able to meet the critical needs of our residents.”
Richmond Council has been leading the local response to COVID-19 in the local area, with the financial impact of its work totalling over £28 million to date.
However, despite agreeing to pay councils in full for their response to the virus, government funding for Richmond is estimated to fall more than £6 million short of the Council’s costs and lost income.
Richmond upon Thames is now facing the in-year budget pressure linked to COVID-19 and is also forecasting a budget gap of up to £11 million for the next financial year, which is one of its biggest ever.
The letter to MPs details a similar picture across all the London boroughs, who are together expecting at a £1.1 billion financial hit from COVID-19, as well as the uncertainty around future government funding.
A cross-party group working on behalf of London’s 32 borough councils is now asking the Government for immediate compensation to cover the £1.1 billion funding gap, as well as a new approach to the long-term funding of local government.
This year’s spending review is expected to prioritise strengthening the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by placing emphasis on jobs and skills as well as levelling up economic opportunity across all nations and regions of the country.
In a statement, Rishi Sunak said: “The Comprehensive Spending Review is our opportunity to deliver on the third phase of our recovery plan – where we will honour the commitments made in the March Budget to rebuild, level up and invest in people and places spreading opportunities more evenly across the nation.”