Councillor calls for government to ”honour funding promises”

With UK councils facing the most serious funding crisis in their history, the Cabinet Member for Finance at Eastbourne Borough Council has appealed to government to “honour funding promises” made by the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP.

At a meeting of Cabinet today (16/9/20), the full enormity of the deficit created by the coronavirus was laid bare.

Councillor Stephen Holt, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “I appeal directly to the Secretary of State to honour the funding promises he made to councils in March when he assured us that government would cover costs associated with the pandemic. We put a brilliant emergency plan into operation to help the people most in need in Eastbourne, but we are still waiting for the government funding to pay for it.

“The council has been left with massive costs and severe losses of income, most notably within our tourism department, all as a direct result of the pandemic. Our team are working tirelessly to resolve this, but we need Government to honour their commitments.”

Councillor Holt was speaking during a debate on the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).

The MTFS sets the strategic financial direction for the Council and is regularly updated as it evolves and develops throughout the year to form the framework for the council’s financial planning.

The full financial impact of the virus is still to be seen but the current estimated net cost to the council could be as high as £25m over the next four years based on the current position. The 2020/2021 budget deficit is £8 million.

Council officers are working closely with MHCLG (Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government) to formulate a financial solution and combat the impact of Covid-19 for residents and businesses.

Aimed at reducing the estimated budget shortfall, a recovery and reset programme has also been instigated to radically scrutinise every area of the council’s operation and introduce new ways of delivering services. Through this programme the council is planning to reduce its deficit by a further £15m by 2024/25.

Councillor Holt added: “For all the tragic consequences of the pandemic, one of the rays of light to emerge from the darkness of the last six months, is the incredible way councils responded and made sure that residents most in need were looked after.

“I remain hopeful that the government recognises this unflinching sense of duty and commitment to public service at a time of national crisis and fulfils its earlier promises to reimburse councils for costs resulting from Covid-19.”