Cuts to Covid-19 support “puts lives at risk” – Mayor

Liverpool Town Hall
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A “scandalous” cut in financial support to Liverpool’s attempt to tackle the Covid-19 crisis will costs lives, according to the city’s Mayor.

Mayor Joe Anderson has expressed grave concerns at the city’s ability to protect the most vulnerable from the impact of Coronvairus in the coming months, after the UK government cut the city’s Covid-19 funding by 32%.

The announcement, made by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), shows that after this second round of funding the city has now received £34m – but the cost of the Coronavirus pandemic is already at £78m, leaving the council with a £44m gap.

The council has set up food hubs, ordered new batches of PPE, provided thousands of meal vouchers, housed the city’s rough sleepers and established 50 school hubs – and with a huge loss in business rates expected, with the closure of thousands of businesses, it expects that gap to rise significantly over the coming months.

The £44m shortfall is more than double what the council has in its reserves – at £17m – and follows a decade of austerity which has seen the Council lose 61% or £433m of its Government funding, with a further £30m set to be cut this year.

Mayor Anderson, who has launched a charity appeal to help the most vulnerable, fears the financial impact of Covid-19 will last longer than the era of Austerity as it will be compounded by Brexit. And he said the council’s poor financial position will inevitably lead to more deaths.

As a result the Mayor has today instructed the council’s chief finance officer to establish an emergency budget meeting in June as the council’s planned £30m cut to its annual budget has been “left in tatters” as result of the financial impact of Covid-19.

He has also challenged the government’s funding, which has been based on population count as opposed to whether areas actually need extra support. This is a different approach to the first round of funding that recognised the pressures individual areas were facing. 

As a result those areas which need more have lost out, and the impact has been significant across Liverpool and the City Region, which has been one of the Covid-19 hotspots outside of London, specifically when it comes to social care.

In comparison smaller District councils across the UK have seen an average rise in funding in the second tranche of 2,000%

Mayor Anderson said: “This new round of funding to councils should be based on need – supporting those towns and cities where Covid-19 is creating the most strain in protecting life and where there is the greatest economic pain.

“To provide funding for this pandemic based on size of population is such a woefully simplistic approach and leaves cities like ours on a huge cliff edge – whilst smaller, leafier places receive relatively huge sums that bear no relation to the problems we face.

“The simple question now is do we have the money to protect the most vulnerable; the thousands of families on the poverty line; the thousands more who have been pushed below it and those on our streets and in our care homes. This crisis is not just about how we cope in the coming weeks and months but for the next few years.

“When you add Austerity and Brexit to Covid-19, we have had the worst possible hat-trick a council can face. We have been stripped to the bone and now face the insidious choice no council should ever have to make in deciding who least deserves our help during the worst public health crisis in a century.

“This is not just a question of supporting those in the face of Covid-19 – Liverpool has other massive health and care issues due to the unprecedented cut we’ve had to endure. We’ve even seen the return of illnesses in our children, like Rickets, not witnessed since the Victorian era!

“This proposed settlement is scandalous. It falls way short of what is required and I urge the Government to urgently reconsider the funding allocation. They need to provide the support we really need to tackle the crisis now – and to recover from it.”