'We need extra cash as soon as possible to help Harborough recover after lockdown' - council leader's plea to government

The fully-stretched local authority has already been handed £966,191 - but it says it needs more

Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 12:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 12:12 pm
Harborough council leader Phil King has fired off an urgent SoS to the Government telling them please give us more Covid-19 cash now.

Harborough council chief Phil King has fired off an urgent SoS to the Government telling them – please give us more Covid-19 cash now.

The fully-stretched local authority has already been handed £966,191 as it tackles the devastating coronavirus pandemic head on.

But Cllr King, leader of Harborough District Council, has warned they will need much more as the shattering peacetime emergency shows no sign of ending.

“We are up against it as we all work flat out to help and support people right across Harborough in this unprecedented time,” Phil told the Harborough Mail.

“Our message to the Government is simple.

“Please give us urgent clarification on how much money we are to be given and when we’ll get it.

“And please hand over the extra cash to us as soon as possible.”

The Conservative council boss spoke after the Government announced a second wave of funding totalling £1.6 billion across the country.

Harborough council initially received just £31,183 to bankroll fighting the crisis and back the community and businesses seriously hit.

The authority has now been awarded a further £935,008.

But Cllr King stressed: “It is clear that the financial impact of this pandemic will continue far longer than the coronavirus lockdown.

“I welcome this extra support but much more is required if we are to deliver the widespread support for our community that is needed.”

He warned the council was losing a lot of revenue from slashed trade waste collections as well as wiped-out car parking charges.

“Car parking generates about £1 million a year for us.

“So that’s crucial income that we are losing at the moment as charges have been suspended during the lockdown,” insisted Cllr King.

“We are also losing out on much-needed trade waste collections with businesses closing down for now.

“That revenue stream alone is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

“That’s a very big hit on council finances and there a lot of big questions to be answered.”

The council is facing losing over £1.2 million just in the short term as income plunges while emergency spending shoots up.

“We are facing massive uncertainty because nobody knows how this pandemic is going to pan out over the next few weeks and months.

“We won’t have a cash crisis because we have got substantial reserves thanks to years of prudent management,” said Cllr King.

“But we don’t want the local taxpayer to end up paying for this – the Government has got to step in and help us out now.

“To put this in context, for every £1 that the Government has given to local authorities across the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Resilience Forum, Harborough District Council has received just 1.65 pence!

“These funds do help cover most of the increased costs and lost income we have experienced so far.

“But we expect a continued hit on our income streams while facing increased costs associated with the pandemic and local support measures.

“That will be in the multi-millions of pounds.”

Cllr King has written to all three local MPs to lobby for more funding to get behind communities and businesses in crisis.

“We will be giving the Government reasonable arguments and evidence backing our case for more urgent funding.

“We are only asking for a fair crack of the whip in Harborough,” said Cllr King.

“We need more clarity and extra support now.

“It’s vital that we hear from the Government in the next few days.

“Or it’s going to be very difficult for us as it for councils in the Covid-19 frontline all over the country.”

He banged the drum after Harborough council was hailed one of the 10 best-performing authorities in England for getting urgent financial support to businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Harborough council has already handed out over £17 million to 1,340 cash-strapped businesses across the district.