More government cash for Suffolk councils but funding worries remain

PUBLISHED: 16:25 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 22 October 2020

David Ellesmere said councils needed more certainty about funding in the months ahead.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

David Ellesmere said councils needed more certainty about funding in the months ahead. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Councils from across Suffolk are to get more than £6m from the government’s latest tranche of funding to help them deal with the Covid pandemic – but one leader has called for a change in the way funds are distributed.

Ipswich council has received almost £850,000 from the government in the latest round of funding to help it cope with losses from the pandemic – slightly more than it had been expecting.

But Labour council leader David Ellesmere said the lack of any clear funding strategy made it almost impossible to plan for the future.

He said: “We keep getting this funding from the government, but they keep on telling us it is the last we will be getting so we can’t plan for any more. And now we don’t know what will happen next.”

MORE: Ipswich introduced an emergency budget in July

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The borough is preparing another emergency budget for next month, and Mr Ellesmere warned that some “grim” decisions would have to be made.

He said: “In July we were seeing things improving. We went from about 25% of activity to 50% and expected to go to 75% and then get back to normal next April. It’s now clear that isn’t going to happen.

“We’re still getting about 50% of our income – and we can’t see that changing. Our leisure facilities are open and costing as much as normal to operate, but we can have only about half the customers through our doors. We can’t sustain that indefinitely. We need to know what kind of support we’ll be getting from the government in the future.”

Suffolk County Council is getting just over £3.8m from the government. Cabinet member for finance Gordon Jones said: “COVID funding from Government has, so far, helped us to deliver millions of pieces of much needed PPE to care homes and schools, financially support care providers and maintain public services under the most challenging of circumstances.

“We welcome this in-year support of course. It is however clear though that this pandemic is far from over, and we seem certain to face a difficult winter where more vulnerable people in Suffolk will need our help.

“Our thoughts are now turning to 2021/2022. With the announcement of a one-year spending review yesterday, councils everywhere will need more Government funding, and certainty regarding that funding, soon, if we are going to plan and be able to deliver both essential public services and protect residents from COVID-19.

“Suffolk’s public sector and charitable organisations continue to work well together to coordinate our efforts and make best use of the funding we have available to us. We’re stronger together and it’s how Suffolk responds in a crisis.”

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