Government leaves Redbridge residents with £45m black hole putting vital services at risk
Published: 23 June 2020
The Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal has, this week, hit out at the Government for failing to keep their promise to compensate councils for the cost of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting local lives and services at risk.
The Leader is urging local businesses and residents to sign a petition to remind the Government that they need to repay the £45m shortfall in funds they promised. Without the payment, local services like parks, waste collections and even street lighting are at risk.
Cllr Athwal said: “The cost of the work we have done to help keep residents safe during the pandemic has been estimated at more than £60m. The Government promised full compensation for these services, but they have since done a U-turn. So far, they have repaid just £15.7m – leaving us with a £45m financial black hole.
“Over the last 10 years, we have endured £180m worth of cuts in Government funding - a staggering amount of money that could have been spent on vital frontline services for residents. Despite this, our residents receive some of the best services in the country, with ‘outstanding’ children’s and adult social care, and 95 per cent of our schools rated good or outstanding. We have nine Green Flag parks, and last year, were finalists for The MJ Council of the year award.
“The majority of our expenditure goes towards supporting the most vulnerable in our local community – it is these people that the Government are putting at risk by going back on their word.
“We’re now asking the Government to honour their promise and pay the £45m shortfall they have left us with. We want everyone in the borough to support us – without these funds, the services our residents and businesses value most, social care, libraries, household waste services and leisure facilities, will all be at risk.”
In March 2020, Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP told 300 councils in the UK:
“My absolute priority is to ensure [you] are well placed to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services, including social care. The government will provide whatever funding is needed for councils to get through this and come out the other side.”
Cllr Athwal Continued: “We took the Government at their word and delivered medication to the vulnerable, food to children who would normally be dependent on school dinners and we found and paid for essential PPE to keep staff and patients in care homes safe.
“157 rough sleepers in our borough were housed and given health and welfare advice. An online health and wellbeing service was developed for our residents, advice was made available for our local businesses and our young people at risk were given new services to keep them safe.
“We stepped up during the national crises caused by Covid-19 and put in place essential services to protect and support our residents. Despite incredibly pressurised circumstances, we were agile, able to meet local need and effective.
“It is outrageous that the Government is now withholding almost our entire annual budget for council services, excluding social care, at a time when our residents are really struggling. They must honour their promise to properly compensate us.”
Councillor Kam Rai, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources added:
“We manage our budget effectively – every pound counts in our service delivery and ambitions for our residents.
“It is wrong that the Government is forcing local people into a position where the services that matter most to our residents could be detrimentally affected because they are reneging on a promise to repay the services we delivered during a time of national crises.
“Please join us in letting the Government know they cannot go back on their promise and abandon the people of Redbridge. Local people deserve the full funding we were promised.
To sign the petition please visit: https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/about-the-council/stronger-together