GMCA covid19

Urgent support for local government needed to support recovery, say Greater Manchester leaders

LEADERS in Greater Manchester have called on the Government to cover in full the stark deficit facing councils and public bodies as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, or risk jeopardising the national recovery.

This morning (Wednesday 24 June), the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the leaders of the 10 local authorities held an emergency meeting to discuss the financial impact of the pandemic across the city-region. Recent analysis by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the 10 councils showed a £368m deficit facing local government in Greater Manchester, as a result of additional expenditure and loss of regular income.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: "Councils across the country have faced huge challenges, and public servants in our city-region have put in a heroic effort to support people throughout the crisis. However, without urgent support, this funding crisis will engulf local government and endanger the vital services that councils provide to the people of Greater Manchester.

"Today, our councils have made a clear, united call on the Government to cover in full the shortfall in this year’s budget, protecting the jobs and services we all rely on. This is about maintaining a sense of national unity, and the strength of our recovery will depend on the strength of the relationship between national and local government. If that commitment is not made, there is a real risk that councils will not be able to cope."

Cllr Brenda Warrington, Leader of Tameside Council, told the meeting: "Clearly we’re all facing unprecedented pressures, and it’s clear also that Government funding is completely insufficient to cover the additional costs and income shortfalls that are being borne by all of us in Greater Manchester.

"It looks like central Government funding and support amounts to less than 40 per cent of the gap that’s been created by the crisis."

Leaders passed a motion noting the change to policy that will come into effect on Saturday 4 July, and that these changes “will increase the funding pressure on local councils and that it is essential that they are properly resourced to manage them."

Cllr Eamonn O'Brien, Leader of Bury Council, said: "What's becoming clear to everybody in local government, across all political parties, across all types of councils, is that the Government is going to have to put money into the local government system. At this stage, the Government knows - and the Prime Minister knows - the scale of the challenge, and it's important that we keep up the pressure.

"It's that ability to draw together the entire borough which local government can do. That's our range of businesses, our business leaders, our housing providers, our health colleagues, our community and faith groups, our volunteers, our care homes. My worry about the Government not giving us what they promised is that we risk losing what has been a key part in the response to COVID."

The Mayor has also warned today that without clear messaging and up-to-date information, public health could be put at risk by the easing of lockdown measures.

He said: "The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday will have been welcomed by many people who are eager to get back to normal. The Government has had a tough decision to make in balancing risk and caution, economic and public health concerns during this crisis. Unfortunately, yesterday’s announcement felt like they’d come down on the side of risk whereas throughout I have sounded a note of caution.

"The decision to open pubs, restaurants, and other locations all on a Saturday is likely to place significant pressure on public authorities and police. A staggered reopening would have eased that pressure and allowed places more time to prepare for the risks involved. We should not let ourselves put slogans ahead of a sensible approach to public safety.

"We know that local outbreaks are likely. Today it feels as though management of the crisis has been shifted from national government to local authorities, precisely at the time when councils are facing black holes in their finances. This is why it is so important that the Government urgently commits to cover, in full, the shortfall in this year's budgets."

Article Published: 24/06/2020 18:03 PM