Sefton Council bosses have called on the Government to urgently give local authorities the funding they need to respond to Covid-19, and to continue to support vulnerable people and plan for a sustainable future.
At a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet this week, where a minute’s silence was marked for the 278 Sefton residents who sadly have died from Covid-19, Chief Executive Dwayne Johnson presented an update on the Council’s response to Covid-19, raising concerns about the economic impact of the pandemic.
In a clear message to the Government, Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council said: “As we offer our condolences to the loved ones of our residents who have lost their lives to Covid-19, the cabinet meeting also enabled us to express our appreciation to our partners, residents and staff for their hard work and dedication throughout the response period.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on the borough of Sefton has been immediate and significant and we believe, so far, we have been impacted the most in the region. We have already seen several stores in Bootle’s Strand close that will not reopen, in addition to a number of business closures across the borough and hotels up for sale and deciding not to re-open, with significant numbers of redundancies.
“The devastating news that HMRC will relocate to Liverpool City Centre from their Bootle state of the art building, which can accommodate up to 7,000 staff, and the loss of thousands of jobs is a massive blow to our Borough and particularly Bootle Town Centre. We’ve already seen a 93% jump in Sefton’s jobseeker’s allowance claimant rate between March and May 2020, with more than 27,000 jobs furloughed at the end of May.
“Of course we’re looking at plans for the wider recovery of The Strand and the Canal Corridor, and what support we can provide to businesses and the local economy in that area; but the impact of covid-19 on our economy means now more than ever we need clarity from government on the financial support they will be giving to local authorities, so that we can plan for our recovery, and progress with projects that will create thousands more jobs for Sefton.”
Explaining how the formula that Government have used to allocate funding to local authorities has changed, Cllr Maher said: “The first round of funding from Government was based on need, but the second round was based on population. Government funding so far has been insufficient to cover costs and lost revenues and is based on an unfair formula.
“Sefton Council, as with many other local authorities, has stepped up, and gone above and beyond what the Government asked us to do to support our communities during the pandemic.
“We now need to secure further Government funding that meets our specific immediate needs and supports Sefton’s longer-term recovery.
“If we don’t get the financial support we need, then ultimately our communities will pay in the long term for the short-term lockdown measures.
“Everyone in our communities knows the sacrifice and the loss we have endured through the coronavirus crisis, it is beyond belief that the government is not standing by our communities in their hour of need.”
Cllr Maher expressed concern that Government do not appreciate the role that local authorities play in the fabric and infrastructure of our society.
He went on: “The Government needs to understand the impact of them not responding to the issues that many local authorities are facing.
“Protecting our communities, our colleagues, our families, our friends and our vulnerable from this deadly virus in one of the worst-hit areas in the country has meant Sefton, and other Councils across Merseyside, have been spending huge amounts of additional funds.
“This additional demand on already hard-hit Council budgets comes at a time when ensuring everyone’s safety has meant a significant proportion of our normal income from day to day activities has all but dried up.
“As Leader of Sefton Council, my team and I will do whatever we can to shield those most in need from these cuts, but the reality is that if ministers don’t fulfil their promise and close the funding gap, then frontline services will bear the brunt and people will suffer.
“The impact of covid-19 on our economy means now more than ever we need clarity from government on the financial support they will be giving to local authorities, so that we can plan for our recovery, and progress with projects that will create thousands of jobs in Sefton.
“The Government said it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to enable councils to support local communities. We are now asking the Prime Minister to keep that promise.”