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Another £10 million for Devon councils

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 8:06am

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

Covid cash now totals £79 million

Devon councils have welcomed the latest tranche of government funding to help them through the coronavirus pandemic, but have warned more still needs to be done to address the black holes in their budgets. The third tranche of additional funding across Devon sees a further £9.7m allocated to councils, taking the overall figure to £79m of covid-19 funding.

Devon County Council has received £4,724,167, East Devon District Council £196,379, Exeter City Council £205,714, Mid Devon District Council £129,938, North Devon Council £171,055, Plymouth City Council £2,503,267, South Hams District Council £121,361, Teignbridge District Council £202,938, Torbay Council £1,310,440, Torridge District Council £128,932, and West Devon Borough Council £89,686.

But while welcoming the additional funding, councils said that the cash still doesn’t cover the anticipated losses as a result of the pandemic.

Mid Devon District Council’s chief executive Stephen Walford said: “We welcome this additional funding from government and this third tranche takes the total emergency support received by MDDC to almost £1m. We await further details on the national income guarantee scheme, as our income projections for things like leisure memberships and car parking have been severely impacted by the need to lockdown and keep people safe.

“However, our initial estimates suggest that even with these various financial support mechanisms, we will still be coping with a seven-figure loss in this financial year. In common with many of our neighbours, we will shortly be working up a revised mid-year budget to work out how best to close this gap while continuing to support the community as best we can.”

David Heyes, Torridge District Council’s finance manager, said: “The additional funding is welcome and brings the total financial support provided by central government for Covid-19 to £856k. The Government has also recently announced that it will partially support councils for lost fees and Charges, 75p in the pound. The full detail of central government support for lost fees and charges are not yet available so it is not possible to determine how much additional funding Torridge Council will receive."

Jon Triggs, head of resources at North Devon Council, said: “We will still be faced with a forecast budget gap, just over a much longer period now and not just this year, but the announcements do provide some breathing space for 2020-21 but it is crucial that local government have an early indication of future year funding settlements 2021-22 onwards so that we can plan for 2021-22 and beyond as some of the above measures push the cost down the road to following years.”

Cllr Judy Pearce, leader of South Hams District Council, said: “We have received £121,361 in this third tranche of government funding. Although it is very helpful, it still does not cover the £1.3 million shortfall that the council is predicting for 2020-21 from the pandemic, so it will only be part of the solution. This is only part of the package the government has promised and we look forward to receiving partial reimbursement for lost fees and charges over the coming year. It is disappointing that District Councils such as South Hams have only received seven per cent nationally of the £500m allocation and we have received the second lowest allocation out of all the Devon councils.

The East Devon District Council share is £196,379 and a spokesman for the council said of course as welcome as the funds are, it only goes a small way to fill the shortfall in the budget for this financial year. They added: “To date EDDC has received a total of £1.71 million, taking into account the latest grant.  East Devon District Council’s Leader Cllr Paul Arnott, added: “It is both a hope and a necessity that the pandemic financial loss of £2.8m is bridged as promised by the government as soon as possible and we look forward to further announcements to that effect.”

Leader of West Devon Borough Council, Cllr Neil Jory, said: “Out of the £500m allocated to councils across the country, the Borough Council has only received £89,686 in this round. This is the lowest funding amount of all the Devon councils and although it will help towards our predicted shortfall of £0.5 million from the effects of the pandemic, other measures to make up the gap will still be needed.

“We are disappointed that the allocations have again been calculated using a population basis which always means that we will miss out due to our sparsely populated and rural location.”

A spokesman for Teignbridge District Council said: “We’re currently forecasting a deficit of around £7m for this financial year so any additional funding is welcome. But this latest announcement of just over £200,000 still leaves us with a substantial deficit caused by loss of income and increased costs. We await further guidance from Government on the detail to help with some of our income streams.”

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