"Pandemics and Prophecies
Last week Cllr Stott (CEC Finance Portfolio Holder), issued a second, alarmist statement, berating central government for a predicted £60m shortfall in 2020/21 funding to underwrite the costs of Covid-19. However when these claims were repeated in last week's Cabinet papers and when questioned, CE Officers admitted that the Council was not currently in debt and that it had received in excess of £130m from Central Government – so far!
Whilst not an exhaustive list, nearly £100m has been distributed in grants to businesses, £5m for infection control funding for care providers, monies for street safety preparations, a £2.2m hardship fund and nearly £20m (in two payments), for emergency expenditure to enable the Council to maintain essential services.
The £60m predicted shortfall does not take account of the two latter payments and the remaining £40m is currently a speculative estimate.
Government have already set in place a rigorous “Covid coding accounting system” to monitor Local Authority Covid expenditure. The Centre for Public Scrutiny has also provided guidance for the Council’s Scrutiny and Audit & Governance Committees to keep a watching brief on how Council’s are spending Covid monies.
The Labour-Independent Coalition know very well that effective lobbying of government requires evidence and government have helpfully provided the framework for this – it is after all Public Money.
There is no doubt that the cost of Covid will be enormous and if a financial shortfall, as a result of Covid is identified, ALL elected members will be lobbying Government for support. However, until that evidence can be examined, openly and transparently, in the public domain, such headlines can be considered no more than speculative rhetoric".
Cllr Janet Clowes:
Conservative Group Leader: Cheshire East Council