The Association of Green Councillors (AGC) has sent an open letter on behalf of Green councilors from 120 councils demanding urgent funding for local authorities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressed to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, the letter demands emergency and longer-term funding to enable local authorities to continue supporting communities during the coronavirus crisis.
It urges for local authorities to be given ‘more flexibility’ with funding as they are ‘best-placed’ to ascertain the nature of support needed within communities.
The AGC warns the government that councils could lose up to half of their spending power if the lockdown were to last for just three months with Green Co-leader Sian Berry commenting that “councils are stepping up but budgets are rapidly reaching breaking point”.
While councils have been working hard to maintain services and support the hardest hit during the crisis, the AGC’s letter underlines that primary sources of income, such as council tax, business rates and commercial incomes have fallen dramatically, leaving councils with severe funding shortfalls.
Citing the experience of Lewes District Council, where the Green Party participates in a co-operative administration, the letter underlines the costs borne by councils, with food packs in Lewes provided to those not covered by the medically shielded programme costing £1 per head of population in the first three weeks.
Commenting upon Lewes District Council’s commitments Councilllor Zoe Nicholson said: "In Lewes, like every other district and borough council, we are facing serious financial problems due to the coronavirus crisis.
"We have been at the front line of the response within our community, paying out for additional food packs and housing the homeless, all amid a significant loss of income.
"Like lots of other district councils we received a measly 0.02 per cent per cent of the additional money the government previously announced for local authorities. We have spent this money at least ten times over just this week. The long-term financial position looks bleak for councils like ourselves who are providing essential front line services."
Berry, who is a Green Party councillor on Camden Council and London Assembly Member, said: “Several weeks into the lockdown and with the increased demand caused by the crisis it is clear that the initial funding the government has already announced for local authorities is simply nowhere near enough.
“Councils are stepping up and providing vital services to our communities. Vulnerable people are relying upon them for a rapid increase in support. But, after a decade of cuts and in the face of lost income as a result of the crisis, budgets are rapidly reaching breaking point.
“We urge the government to act immediately so that we can continue to do this essential work and not add further strain to the NHS and other essential services.
Following on from last year’s local elections, the most successful in the Green Party’s history, 362 green councillors now sit on 122 councils across England.
A copy of the AGC letter can be viewed on the Green Party website.