CHESHIRE East’s two most senior councillors have slammed the Government over a ‘simply inadequate’ funding package to help local authorities cover the cost of coronavirus.

Covid-19 has cost Cheshire East Council £70 million so far, according to a report going to cabinet next week.

The Government has previously sent £19.7 million to CEC to help cover the costs, and it announced a new £500 million package for councils across England on Thursday, July 2.

But the council is yet to learn how much of that cash will be heading its way, and in a joint statement released this afternoon, leader Cllr Sam Corcoran (Lab) and deputy Cllr Craig Browne (ind) say the cash will not be enough.

The statement said: “We welcome the additional funding announced by the government yesterday.

“However, strip away the misleading headlines and the re-announcement of money already committed and you see that funding for local authorities, such as CEC, is simply inadequate to meet the additional costs we are experiencing.

“CEC continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, we are continuing to deliver essential local services which protect our most vulnerable people and support our communities and local businesses.

“We do not yet know the lasting impact of the pandemic – but we do know that, even with anticipated additional government funding, we will experience unprecedented financial pressure this financial year and for years to come.”

The funding announcement was made as part of a wider £27 billion package for coronavirus support, but Cllr Browne and Cllr Corcoran say more than £20 billion has already been handed over to businesses that ‘desperately need’ the money.

There will also be a separate package to compensate for lost sales, fees and charges – but this will only be up to 75p in every pound, and only if income has reduced beyond five per cent.

The statement said: “Local government secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement yesterday said he was unveiling ‘a major new support package to help councils respond to coronavirus’ as part of ‘a comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability for the future’.

“The reality is that it does no such thing.

“Although today’s measures are welcome, with costs continuing to rise from tackling coronavirus and no guarantees over compensation for lost council tax and business rates, the council still faces financial uncertainty.”

Mr Jenrick also announced yesterday that payment of council tax and business rate deficits could be made over the next three years, rather than next year, to help ease cashflow pressures.

Winsford Guardian:

Robert Jenrick in Downing Street. Image: PA Wire

He also said the next Government spending review would ‘determine what support councils need to help them meet the pressures of income loss from council tax and business rates’.

Mr Jenrick added: “Councils are playing a huge part in supporting their communities during this pandemic.

“From supporting the most vulnerable and keeping vital services running to operating local track and trace, council workers have been at the forefront of this great national effort and are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.

“This Government will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with councils and communities as we recover from this pandemic as we renew our commitment to unite and level up the country.”