Opinion: Reason why we are putting more into public services

Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, sets out how he believes the government has stood by councils.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 8:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 11:30 pm
Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government (image via parliament.uk under Creative Commons licence - creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, there is no doubt we have seen the very best of public service.

From the frontline hospital workers and care workers who have selflessly put their needs aside to look after the most vulnerable, to the everyday heroes who have continued to stack our supermarket shelves and deliver essential supplies to our doors.

And local councils have been at the forefront of this response.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They kept schools open for the children of frontline workers, provided over 15,000 rough sleepers with emergency accommodation, and have delivered grants to struggling businesses, helping high streets and small business owners to withstand the worst economic impacts of the virus. When life returns to normal we will not forget their work, courage and resolve.

At the start of this pandemic, the Government said we would stand by councils and give them the support they need to deliver this vital work. We are honouring this in full.

We gave councils £3.2 billion of emergency funding to spend wherever they saw the greatest need. We added to that £5 billion in cashflow support, £600 million for infection control in local care homes, £300 million to support the new test and trace system and over £20 billion in support for businesses.

In total, we have provided almost £28 billion for councils, communities and businesses in just four months.

Local leaders across the country, including in Lancashire, have raised concerns about losses in incomes and the costs they face as they deal with the ongoing effects of the virus.

We have heard those concerns loud and clear and, last week, the Local Government Secretary announced we are acting on them. He confirmed we will provide a further £500 million to cover the spending pressures councils have told us they are facing.

For Lancashire, that means £14 million in additional funding.

More significantly still, he also confirmed we will protect councils against their loss of income in sales, fees and charges. For Lancashire, like so many other major areas which rely heavily on these income sources, this funding will ensure they are shielded from the worst-losses.

This will take the form of a new co-payment insurance scheme.

And at the Spending Review, the Government will agree how irrecoverable council tax and business rates losses will be shared between central and local government for this financial year.

When the Prime Minister set out his £5bn “New Deal” for this country in June, he promised we would fulfil our promise to unite the country and level up every region.

To improve infrastructure, education and technology so no matter where you are from you have the same opportunity to succeed.

For Lancashire, like so many other areas across the country with a rich industrial heritage, this has to apply to more than just our major city centres – it means delivering investment for our neglected towns and villages too.

It means delivering real investment for Preston, Leyland and Blackpool, areas which have all been invited to submit proposals for our £3.6 billion Towns Fund.

It means reinventing and renewing the local high streets in areas like Morecambe, Nelson, Fleetwood and Kirkham, places which have been shortlisted to develop plans to reenergise their town centres as part of the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund.

It means delivering investment for locally-backed projects, like we are doing through £320 million of Growth Deals which will improve housing, infrastructure and research in Lancashire.

As we look towards our recovery and renewal from coronavirus, there is no doubt that we will continue to need the same dedication, unity and expertise we have seen from our public servants since the start of this pandemic.

It is with their support that we will be able to not only to get back to where were before the virus, but to emerge stronger and deliver on the promises we have made for the people of Lancashire.

Simon Clarke MP, is the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government