District Council rejects idea of sharing Government coronavirus funding

Stratford District Council leader Cllr Tony Jefferson says the district has been 'sacrificed on the altar of administrative convenience'

Stratford District Council has rejected the idea of sharing £1.34million in Government coronavirus funding with town and parish councils.

The money, part of a £3.2billion national funding pot announced for local authorities by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, will instead stay with the district council.

In a letter to town and parish councils Mr Jenrick had suggested that £1.6billion of the overall national fund should be shared between lower tier councils providing coronavirus related services, such as town and parish councils.

However that will not be the case in Stratford District, with district council leader Cllr Tony Jefferson, writing to parish and town councils to confirm that Stratford District Council was not in a position to share the money.

Cllr Jefferson outlined how the district council’s finances had been hit hard by coronavirus, leaving it with a shortfall of £7million.

Cllr Jefferson said: “in a video conference with the District Councils Network this afternoon it turns out that what was really meant was that this applied to only those Councils in financial distress.

“Far be it from me to point out that Parish Councils have no restrictions on the precept they can raise so why should any be in “financial distress.” In the light of this suggestion I would like to share the financial impact of Covid-19 on Stratfordon-Avon District Council (SDC). The total estimated cost of the emergency to SDC is over £8m, in terms of additional expenditure but, more significantly, lost income. To date the Government funding for the Council has been £1.34m, leaving a shortfall of approximately £7m.”

He added: “As a result the Council has insufficient funds to meet its own requirements and cannot consider providing grants from the £1.34m received. Furthermore, the Council is currently reviewing reserves and current projects and will, potentially, have to review service delivery in the future.”

Responding to the announcement, Clllr Susan Juned, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Stratford District Council, said:”A number of our town and parish councils have been doing very valuable work supporting the community during the pandemic and this has cost some of them money for which they had not budgeted.

“The precepts for this year have been set which mean that it would be 2021 before they
can raise funds through that method.

I think it’s unfortunate that the parishes and towns have had funding rejected without even being able to have their case heard. I hope very much that Cllr Jefferson will reconsider and at least look at their claims.

“He should also be making the case to central Government, on their behalf, explaining how local government actually works and arguing for a much better settlement of the costs to local government and communities of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.  This is not a time for ‘divide and rule’ tactics.”

For more on this story, read Thursday’s Herald.