Additional £160million for South West councils but Dorset warns it’s not enough

LOCAL authorities across the South West have received an extra £160million from the government to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but Dorset Council has already warned this will not be enough. 

The government is providing an additional £1.6billion to local authorities across the country to ensure they have the resources they need to deal with the pandemic.

This is in addition to the £1.6billion already announced in March and represents an unprecedented level of financial support in recent times.

The funding is intended to spent on essential services, such as adult social care and children’s services, while also providing support to people impacted by the coronavirus.

This includes protecting rough sleepers, with 90% of rough sleepers offered safe accommodation so far; establishing shielding programmes for clinically extremely vulnerable people; and ensuring there is additional support available across a range of other vital council services.

This announcement builds on other government measures, including allowing councils to defer the payment of business rates to central government and providing them with a combined £850million in up-front social care grants that will help with their cashflow so they can continue to deliver vital services.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Councils are playing a central role in our national fight against coronavirus and the government continues to back them at this challenging time.

“That’s why I announced an extra £3.2billion of support for councils to help them to continue their extraordinary efforts.

“Today I’m setting out how the latest £1.6billion of this will be allocated to councils in the fairest way possible, recognising the latest and best assessment of the pressures they face.

“We are backing local district councils and a clear majority will receive at least £1million in additional funding.”

Dorset Council will receive £10,411,613 of the funding, in addition to the £10,665,165 it received in March – a total of £21,076,778.

However, it announced last week that it was incurring additional costs of £13million per month as it supports residents, communities and businesses through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Dorset Council’s first round of government funding was spent within the first month of the pandemic and the council warned that additional funds of a similar amount would not cover the shortfall.

If the crisis continues into the summer, the council is likely to incur additional costs of over £54million in 2020-21 and the government funding represents just 40% of this, leaving a shortfall of £32.6million.

West Dorset MP Chris Loder has, however, welcomed news of the £21million funding for Dorset.

He commented: “I’m pleased that the government has again acted following my representations to them to further support Dorset Council, which is doing an incredible job under extraordinary circumstances.

“Dorset Council will receive government funding totalling £21,076,778 to help ensure essential services are not impacted by the extra demands placed on councils by coronavirus.

“I will be working hard to ensure the benefits of this extra support filters through to our West Dorset communities, especially those most vulnerable who need it the most.”

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