Martin Cox the Liberal Democrat leader of Maidstone Borough Council has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP expressing his concerns around the significant shortfall of money the council has received to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the letter, Martin Cox points out that in Maidstone the council already plan to spend £266,000 on measures to address the pandemic, nearly five times the amount of £57,000 received as a grant from the government so far.
He goes on to say that Maidstone Borough Council expects to lose £7.4 million in income this year, due to the slower collection of Council Tax and Business Rates as well as loss of fees and charges through the closure of council services like the leisure centre. This figure could be even higher if severe disruption persists beyond the end of June.
Martin Cox, Leader of Maidstone Borough Council said: "We are spending all of our allocations and more on supporting the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, including supporting rough sleepers and the homeless, provision of food and other essential supplies to vulnerable people and grants to secure services from voluntary organisations within the local area.
"That spend also includes setting up volunteering and community hub centres, such as our much sought after Maidstone Community Hub, which has supported a number of families and individuals in recent weeks.
"The combination of additional expenditure and reduced income will severely damage our capacity to support the recovery of our community from the pandemic if central government do not increase their grant money to us."
Maidstone is joining other Kent councils in pressing the government for more help. It is currently estimated that in total Kent councils will spend an additional £126.4 million due to pressures caused by Covid-19 over the coming year, far more than the emergency funding allocated so far.
The 12 Kent district councils alone have identified £3.3 million of additional or committed spend over the same period, nearly five times the amount of grant provided by the government to districts. Councils across Kent and Medway received just £46.3 million of the £1.6 billion emergency funding, of which £39 million was directed to Kent County Council, £6.6 million to Medway Unitary Council and an average of just £59,000 to each of the 12 districts.
In addition to councils’ additional expenditure, they currently anticipate losing £260.9 million of income. With budgets already finely balanced, this pressure, in addition to the spending pressures already identified, poses a massive challenge.
Martin Cox continues: "The shortfall in income will damage councils’ capacity to deliver services in the future, particularly in the all-important period of recovery from the pandemic.
"It is something we will be keeping a very close eye on in the weeks and months ahead but be assured that serving the residents of Kent is and always will be our collective priority.
"Our message to central government is clear; if they value the role of local government, it is essential that local councils receive significant more financial support than has hitherto been the case."