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Read letter from Gedling council leaders to Boris Johnson in full

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Below is the full letter from Gedling Borough Council leaders, Councillors John Clarke and Michael Payne, to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It is titled ‘Covid-19 funding for local government – The UK’s 4th emergency service’

Dear Prime Minister

Further to our letter of best wishes on 6 April we are pleased to see you are now making a speedy recovery and wish you the very best in returning to full strength and getting back to Downing Street.

Gedling Borough Council is proud to be playing its part in the national effort to beat Coronavirus – just as in every other council across the country, our staff have shown heroic dedication, compassion and fortitude in the face of this local, national and global emergency; often putting themselves at risk in order to care for the elderly, shield the most vulnerable, continue to collect the bins, provide vital support to local businesses and house the homeless. Alongside our NHS, council staff are serving on the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus – they’re the UK’s fourth emergency service and should be recognised, respected and rewarded as such.

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In a few short weeks our colleagues at Gedling Borough Council have worked flat out to muster over 500 volunteers locally, make direct contact with thousands of vulnerable people across our borough, help raise £25,000 from residents to support our local food banks, as well as establishing a council-led Giving for Gedling Humanitarian Centre with our local churches and food banks, which has become a super food bank and distribution centre ensuring food and vital supplies are delivered to everyone who needs our support.

Our staff have also built and administered a system that has paid out nearly £7m in Business Support Grants in less than 10 days – meaning several hundred local businesses have already received the financial support they so desperately need.

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Gedling leader John Clarke, left and deputy leader Michael Payne, right. (Credit: Joseph Raynor)

Our frontline staff have ensured the bins are still collected each week and the streets are kept clean, they’re sorting out benefits for the hardest hit, keeping roofs over people’s heads and have helped take rough sleepers off the streets. And sadly, as a burial authority, we are working closely with the Local Resilience Forum to ensure victims of this awful virus are laid to rest in a dignified manner.

We’ve worked closely with your colleagues across Government throughout this crisis, particularly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. On several conference calls with MHCLG the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP made it very clear that councils should not delay on Coronavirus spending and taking necessary action to tackle the virus, an approach local government fully supports. The Secretary of State specifically stated that the Government ‘will be supporting you and ensuring the money flows to you.’ He also made it clear we ‘should spend whatever it takes, the Government will reimburse you’. It is deeply concerning that in the last few days the Secretary of State’s approach and tone has shifted significantly, now claiming local government must ‘share the burden’ of this crisis. Let us be clear, councils cannot continue to maintain vital public services, protect the most vulnerable, care for the young and elderly and act as our nation’s fourth emergency service in tackling this crisis by operating on goodwill or fresh air alone.

You rightly told us to do what it takes, and you would back us. Now we’re asking you to deliver on that promise. We need certainty, not uncertainty, leading to insolvency.

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After a decade of cuts to local councils, and a heroic effort by councils to do what has been necessary in the last few weeks, this backtracking on clear promises to recompense local authorities constitutes a real slap in the face. A failure by the Government to reimburse councils for additional expenditure, loss of income, loss of Council Tax/Business Rates and foregone savings as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, would be a betrayal of local government’s army of key workers who have kept our communities and this country going through the most challenging of times.

The cost of responding to and tackling the Covid-19 pandemic for councils has been immense and without Government honouring their promise, the impact will be crippling. The financial cost to our own council has already been over £960,000. In just one month we have accumulated £128,000 of additional expenditure – £22,000 of which has been for tackling homelessness and £106,000 towards providing food supplies and support for the elderly and most vulnerable, purchasing PPE for our frontline workers, including our refuse collectors and on foregone efficiency savings. We are also suffering from a loss of £832,000 of income in this month alone, a figure likely to be repeated month-on-month for the foreseeable future. To put this in context the £960,000 cost to Gedling Borough Council in just one month equates to 8.2% of our council’s net budget for the entire year.

The £1.6bn Coronavirus funding allocated to local government thus far is welcome but goes nowhere near far enough to assist councils in dealing with the impact of this pandemic. Our own council’s share of that funding was only £54,000, which is barely 6% of the cost of this crisis for our council in one month alone.

We’ll continue to do all we can to maintain business as usual, support the most vulnerable and local businesses, and give the Government the breathing space needed to help beat this virus. To do that we need you to urgently deliver on the promise made to reimburse councils for the cost of this crisis. Anything short of that risks councils like ours being forced to issue P45s to the heroes that are helping local communities and our country beat this indiscriminate virus.

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