Council leaders appeal to Chancellor: ”Don’t forget district councils”

The leaders of Lewes District Council have appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to not forget the role played by district councils in tackling the impact of Covid-19 and supporting local economic recovery. The Covid-19 pandemic has left the council facing up to a £12m shortfall over this year and the next four years.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council, said: “Without certainty from the government on funding for next year and regardless of their political make-up, councils up and down the UK will be forced to make severe cuts to services to balance their budgets.

“The government must honour their promises to meet our Covid related costs and loss of income. The Chancellor’s Spending Review has to provide long-term funding assurance and most importantly, bring stability to residents at a most uncertain time.”

An assessment by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated a funding gap of around £1bn between the cost of Covid-19 for councils compared to the government support they have received to date.

Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: “My one message to the Chancellor is, don’t forget district councils. County councils often occupy most of the news headlines because of their social care responsibilities, for children, adults and other vulnerable people. I understand that, but second tier authorities such as Lewes District Council are also providing frontline services that thousands of residents rely on. Rishi Sunak has their welfare in his hands and I can only hope he does the right thing and fulfils the government’s funding commitments.”

The council will also see a deficit of nearly £1m for lost council tax and business rate income due to the pandemic over the next three years, according to its future budgetary shortfalls.

Councillor Chris Collier, Cabinet Member for People and Performance, said: “We have arrived at a landmark moment in the history of local government. The coming days will dictate whether hundreds of authorities can continue to support the residents that need the most help or, we face the prospect of the deepest and most devastating cuts in public services in living memory.”