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£6m emergency cash for Suffolk councils is not enough – warning

Suffolk councils have received nearly £6 million in emergency cash from central Government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the latest settlement – but council bosses have warned more is needed to see them through the crisis.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the third tranche of emergency cash for authorities on Thursday, with Suffolk’s share totalling £5.9 million out of the £500 million pot.

The breakdown is as follows:

West Suffolk House....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.... (38828515)
West Suffolk House....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.... (38828515)

• West Suffolk – £277,769

• Mid Suffolk – £139,622

• Babergh – £132,051

• Suffolk County – £4,690,734

• East Suffolk – £425,440

• Ipswich – £278,009

Suffolk County Council has received the lion’s share of the latest pot for Suffolk, as it is responsible for adult care, while East Suffolk has the largest population meaning its settlement is more than other districts and boroughs.

The latest tranche means Suffolk’s authorities so far have received more than £48.5 million in Government cash to tackle the crisis since March, which has helped to fund emergency response measures such as food parcels, temporary accommodation for homeless people during lockdown and sourcing additional PPE.

Authorities have faced the double hit of increased costs to tackle the crisis and severely depleted incomes, as car park revenue, theatre takings and gym money has all been slashed under lockdown.

While the extra funds have been welcomed, councils leaders said more cash was needed to prevent cuts.

Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for finances at Suffolk County Council, said: “This is welcome news and will of course go some way to support us in meeting the unexpected financial challenges that responding to Covid-19 has caused.

“We continue to remain in contact with central Government to update it on our emerging service pressures. I hope that there is recognition that further financial support is required in months to come as local authorities continue to support communities through the response and recovery surrounding the pandemic.”

Ipswich Borough Council’s executive has agreed to pursue plans to cut its Waterfront gym and axe the Tourist Information Centre as part of a £10 million savings plan, while West Suffolk Council confirmed it was also facing a £10 million hit to its budget this year.

David Ellesmere, Ipswich leader, said: “To put this in perspective, in the emergency budget we took to executive and will take to full council at the end of the month we are assuming we will get £2.4 million of Government funding in the current financial year. We have got £278,009 in the latest tranche, so it is welcome but still a long way to go.”

Central government has announced plans to reimburse councils 75p in every £1 of lost income, after the first five per cent of income has been covered by the authorities themselves, but details on which income streams will and will not be included in that deal are yet to be confirmed, leaving uncertainty for authorities over how much they will need to dip into reserves or make savings.

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