IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Government pledges virus cash but council still short of millions due to crisis

Islington Council needs extra funding to avoid cuts to services, amid fears of a second wave of pandemic

03 July, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

THE Town Hall’s finance chief has said the borough still needs at least £12million from the government to avoid making “big cuts”.

And he warned a second wave of the coronavirus peak would “throw everything out of the window”.

Speaking to the Tribune, Labour cabinet councillor Satnam Gill welcomed a new pledge from central government to find £500million for struggling local authorities

It follows weeks of warnings that councils are heading for tough decisions after facing multi-million-pound bills for extra services needed to cover the Covid-19 crisis

At the same time, Islington has lost revenue due to the lockdown which meant applications for event licences fell, as did parking penalties.

Paid-for services such as leisure centres, meanwhile, have been left unusued.

New council figures to the end of June show a slightly better outlook for the borough than previous warnings.

Cllr Satnam Gill: ‘New figures to the end of June show that we will be around £24million in the red because of coronavirus’

But the government’s package amounts to a pledge to only cover a maximum of 75p to the pound of lost income suffered by councils since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

“New figures to the end of June show that we will be around £24million in the red because of coronavirus,” said Cllr Gill.

“That is better than the outlook at the end of May, and includes lost income and money spent tackling the virus.

“We would really welcome £12 to £15million. If it’s not around £12million or above then we are going to be struggling.

“If it is, we would still have to make cuts, but not big cuts.

“Our best estimate is that we will get somewhere between £4million and £12million, but it depends what the government basis its calculations on, and whether they come up to what was previously promised.

“And this is all on the understanding that there isn’t going to be a second peak or another lockdown. If that happens, everything will go out of the window.”

Islington Council leader Councillor Richard Watts has previously warned of how the finances had been hit the Town Hall but suggested it was not one of the authorities in the UK which were at risk of going bust.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick, the Conservative MP, said council workers had been at the forefront of the response to the crisis and were the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic.

Announcing the £500million pledge, he said: “Councils are playing a huge part in supporting their communities during this pandemic.”

He added: “I know that the loss of revenue from car parks and leisure centres has created huge difficulties, so I am introducing this scheme to help cover these losses.”

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