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EXCL Town hall leaders call for Government to subsidise council tax bills during coronavirus pandemic

The council leaders are calling for more help with council tax bills amid the Covid-19 outbreak (PA)

3 min read

Council leaders have warned minister that local authorities are in “desperate need of more support” to help keep communities safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

They say “urgent measures are needed” and are calling for the Government to provide more funding for social care and public health measures,

The plea to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) from more than 30 senior Liberal Democrat figures across the country is also calling to give people more help with council tax bills amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

So far a £500million hardship fund has been set up to provide council tax relief for more than two million vulnerable households.

But a number of other authorities, such as Birmingham, Chemsford, Rutland, Shropshire and Wiltshire councils, are going further and deferring all payments until June.

In a letter to ministers the council leaders write: “ One crucial way that councils up and down the country could help those struggling financially as a result of the crisis is get more support from government in helping people in financial hardship with council tax bills. 

“The coronavirus crisis has plunged many people into financial insecurity, with people losing their livelihoods overnight, and we believe that extra funding from Whitehall to assist those people is a measure that could ease some of the burden on those wondering how they will be able to put food on the table over the next few months.”

They add: “We welcome the initial £1.6billion for councils but there is an urgent need for this to be supplemented by further support from the Government, given the financial pressures faced across local government. 

“Local councils are very willing to be accountable and transparent about how government support is used, but extra help is needed now.”

The Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said: "Our local authorities are on the front line in the fight against coronavirus, but they are struggling to deliver the vital services without sufficient financial support from the government.

"The additional funding that has been announced by the Chancellor, although welcome, must get to councils quickly, and it is clear that more will be needed. 

“Whether it's getting social care workers the protective equipment and testing they need, or helping the elderly, the homeless, or domestic abuse victims, the demand for assistance from local government is sky rocketing.”

And Cllr Richard Watts from the Local Government Association said: “Councils across the country are leading local efforts to support communities through the coronavirus crisis. 

“Local government continues to step up to this unprecedented challenge and will do everything it can to help residents and businesses, but it will be stretched to the maximum.”

He added: “Councils need a commitment from the Government that it will meet all the extra costs local authorities are facing due to Covid-19 and to keep normal services running and compensate them for income losses.”

The MHCLG has been approached for comment. On Thursday it announced new measures to help ease immediate financial pressures faced by councils, by allowing them to defer £2.6billion in business rates payments to central government.

The local government secretary Robert Jenrick also confirmed £850million in social care grants will be paid up front this month to help ease immediate pressures on local authority cash flows.

He said: “Whether it be caring for the elderly, providing outpatient services, councils are providing vital support to the most vulnerable people in our society throughout this pandemic.

“I am determined councils get the support they need which is why I am taking action to ease some of the immediate financial pressures they face in responding to coronavirus, helping to protect the NHS and save lives.”

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