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Government warned council services and jobs could be 'decimated' if Downing Street does not fund authorities like Medway for Covid-19 response

The government has been told council services will be "decimated" unless it fully funds local authorities for the financial hole they are facing in response to Covid-19.

It is feared council jobs and services may have to be cut should Downing Street not help out authorities and staff in Medway who have "stepped up to the plate" during the pandemic.

Medway councillors have urged the government to give local authorities the tools to make sure funding gaps do not lead to service and job cuts
Medway councillors have urged the government to give local authorities the tools to make sure funding gaps do not lead to service and job cuts

The cabinet in Medway expressed their overwhelming thanks for the huge efforts of hundreds of council staff – some 340 working from home – and volunteers helping out residents and keeping the council running during a meeting on Tuesday.

As the Messenger revealed last month, Medway Council is expecting to spend almost £60m in response to the virus but is facing a "frightening" £43m budget shortfall.

Cllr Adrian Gulvin said this could have a disastrous effect on the way the authority is able to operate in the future especially since staff had "gone way beyond their normal things".

"Every section of the council has performed brilliantly and really stepped up to the plate," he said.

"We managed to save through business change last year £5m, so that really puts into some perspective the huge task we have to fund that gap.

Cllr Adrian Gulvin said services could be 'decimated' if the government doesn't help councils plug huge shortfalls for responding to the virus
Cllr Adrian Gulvin said services could be 'decimated' if the government doesn't help councils plug huge shortfalls for responding to the virus

"I do hope the Chancellor will give some more help to local authorities.

"We've stepped up to the plate and done our bit. The government has a duty to make sure our services aren't decimated – £40m is a huge gap for us to have to close and the vast majority of that has to come from central government. We cannot cut our services.

"I'm determined to keep those services as best we can.

"But I can't praise the staff enough. They've been absolutely brilliant."

Deputy leader Cllr Howard Doe said the government "cannot walk away" from helping local government. He said: "We've stepped up to the plate in delivering these services and trying to make sure our population has been looked after in a way the government could never have done on its own.

"Neither can we do it on our own without the tools to do the job.

Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for housing and community services, added councils needed to be given the tools
Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for housing and community services, added councils needed to be given the tools

"But if you leave behind the chaos this underfunding can lead to, then it's a very dark hour for local government and the government, which would have to bail it out anyway."

Council leader Alan Jarrett led the praise for the efforts of all council staff, officers and volunteers.

He thanked children and adult social care workers for the important work keeping vulnerable people safe, the "remarkable" work to keep schools open during the lockdown which had been "unsung" and providing "an outstanding collection of all our household waste".

He added there had been a "small number of outbreaks" in Medway where he believes the "situation is fairly well contained".

Cllr Jarrett said the council had supported 6,000 people in shielding categories and delivered 110,000 meals during the crisis.

"A lot of these activities were being carried out by our staff, many working from home and redeployed.

Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett led the praise for the efforts of council staff across the board
Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett led the praise for the efforts of council staff across the board

"With meals, we distributed people from leisure services, public health and other parts of the council were directed to keep services running.

"Everyone deserves our praise and our thanks."

The Labour opposition has also added its concerns about the lack of funding for councils.

Medway councillors including opposition leader Vince Maple and shadow spokesman for housing Naushabah Khan recently spoke with new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Cllr Maple said: "It was great to hear from Keir and I second his recognition of the huge efforts of key workers, including hard working council staff after relentless funding cuts.

“Local governments and the communities they serve are a vital part the country’s economic, cultural and environmental recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was encouraging to see the Labour leader emphasise this.

Cllr Naushabah Khan, Labour opposition spokesman for housing at Medway Council
Cllr Naushabah Khan, Labour opposition spokesman for housing at Medway Council

“From issues such as supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, to tackling the climate change crisis, it is clear that local communities must be empowered to govern effectively. The Labour Party supports a vision for the future that puts local Government at the heart of this.”

Cllr Khan added: “It was encouraging to see the commitment from Keir to create a more comprehensive link between local and national government. Decisions should be made as close to communities as possible, with issues such as social housing and homelessness requiring a more localised approach.

“I echo Keir’s sentiments that further funding and financial flexibilities are needed urgently to help councils.”

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