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Redbridge Council slams government over £45m coronavirus black hole

Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal (credit: Redbridge Council)

The leader of Redbridge Council has slammed the government for failing to repay local authorities funds promised to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Jas Athwal claims the government has only given Redbridge £15.7million so far, leaving them with a shortfall of around £45m.

He is warning services such as waste collections, street lighting, and parks could be at risk without the funding.

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.”

Redbridge Council has launched a petition which they are asking local people to sign, calling on the government to repay funds promised to local authorities.

You can view the petition here.

Redbridge Town Hall

The council says it was told by Robert Jenrick, the Local Government Secretary, in March that the government would “provide whatever funding is needed for councils to get through this and come out the other side.”

Cllr Athwal said: “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 needs, and effective.

“It is outrageous that the Government is now withholding almost our entire, annual budget for council services 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.

Redbridge Councillor Kam Rai (credit: Kam Rai)

“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.”

Time 107.5 has approached the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government for comment.

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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