Councillor Pete Marland, Leader of Labour-led Milton Keynes Council, has written to the Prime Minister to seek reassurance that the Council will continue to receive the funding that’s needed in order to keep supporting people in Milton Keynes during the Covid-19 crisis and into the recovery.
Dear Prime Minister,
Firstly, I’d like to extend my best wishes and hope that you are recovering well.
I am sure you are aware of the hard work that Councils all over the country are doing in response to the Covid-19 crisis, working with Local Resilience Forums, the NHS, care providers, the Government and local communities to ensure help gets to the most vulnerable to support those in need. I believe yet again local government has shown itself to be where the national Government and local communities turn to for practical help and delivery in a time of crisis. The speed and flexibility of local authorities to deliver when needed has been highlighted again.
I would like to thank the Government for the extra funding received so far. I welcome the assurance given repeatedly by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that the Government will reimburse local authorities for necessary expenditure in our response.
However, I am writing to express my concern at our ability to be able to continue to support those who need it most in our communities and ask that financial support for local government continues not simply in the emergency phase, but through the recovery phase and into business as usual.
During the unfolding crisis, we, like all other Councils have found ourselves on the front line of supporting our communities and the most vulnerable within them, and this is likely to continue for many months to come. We have had to face this crisis head on, against a backdrop of ten years of funding cuts from central Government.
Here in Milton Keynes we have been able to respond to the unfolding crisis efficiently and adapt the way we work to meet the challenges those in our community are facing through a number of initiatives. We are collaborating with Milton Keynes Food Bank to coordinate ‘Food Bank Xtra’, operated by volunteers, Council staff and Councillors to ensure local vulnerable people are receiving the essentials they desperately need. A Local Support Service has been established to keep in touch with vulnerable people and signpost them to services where necessary. Our Communications team are finding new and innovative ways to keep local people informed; resulting in more interaction with our website and social media than ever before, and we are supporting and working with local voluntary groups and Milton Keynes Community Foundation to support funding and volunteering for groups supporting local people. Some examples of the extra expenditure we have incurred are:
Extra funding to stabilise the Adult Social Care sector £1.5m
Helping Rough Sleepers £350k
Temporary Mortuary Costs £150k
Personal Protective Equipment £100k
Foodbank Xtra £50k
Support for community groups £50k
Providing free parking to key workers £200k
At the same time we have lost significant levels of income, with some examples for the period of the crisis to date being:
Loss of parking income £3m
Service income eg planning fees £250k
Reduction in social care income £100k
We welcome the initial grant of £6m to help cover these costs and that more funding has now been allocated. I would welcome a reassurance that funding for the emergency and recovery phase will be guaranteed.
I would also welcome assurances regarding longer term funding for local government. Over the coming months we expect significant losses from reductions in Council Tax and Business Rates income. We estimate that the medium term financial impact of Covid-19 will be an additional £37m funding gap. Without action this gap would have devastating effects on the Council and the residents of Milton Keynes.
I am aware that in recent weeks there has been a significant, if subtle, change in tone from the Secretary of State, while initially promising to “do what it takes,” to a more ambiguous “funding to get through the crisis,” and a concerning comment that “local government will have to share the burden of cost.”
The impact of Covid-19 will be felt well beyond this initial period, without additional funding we will simply be unable to continue to support the people of Milton Keynes and deliver a prosperous recovery. This would leave the most vulnerable in our society unsure where to turn to for support, families unable to feed their children without access to food packages and could lead to job losses amongst our vital frontline staff. Milton Keynes is an economic success story, without the support to our communities our economy will suffer and there will be less funding to help rebalance the economy in the longer term.
It’s clear that Councils are at the forefront of the response to the crisis and we must be provided with the funding and support from Central Government, here in Milton Keynes and nationally, now and in the long term in order to continue to provide both our essential services and effective response and recovery services to all those in need at this troubling time.
I look forward to receiving your reassurance that this issue will be addressed.
Cllr Peter Marland
Milton Keynes Council