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‘Incredibly disappointing’: Redbridge Council leader demands government ‘keep its promise’ as coronavirus funding announced

PUBLISHED: 17:14 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 22 July 2020

Redbridge Council has opened up a third round of applications for Discretionary Business Grants. Picture: Ken Mears

Redbridge Council has opened up a third round of applications for Discretionary Business Grants. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

A £2million government boost to the town hall’s coffers has been greeted with scorn.

Jas Athwal, the leader of Redbridge Council, called on Westminster to plug a £45m black hole in the local authority’s budget which has taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Athwal said: “It is incredibly disappointing to see the government go back on its promise to the people of Redbridge and leave our council in a really difficult position of having to choose which services to prioritise while trying to save what is essentially our entire annual budget.

“Redbridge is not alone, councils up and down the country are suffering the same fate after spending a small fortune keeping people safe during the pandemic.

“We followed the government directive to ‘do whatever it takes’ to protect our residents and now it’s time they fulfil their end of the bargain and pay us back.”

Cllr Jas Athwal said: It is incredibly disappointing to see the government go back on their promise to the people of Redbridge.Cllr Jas Athwal said: It is incredibly disappointing to see the government go back on their promise to the people of Redbridge." Picture: Andrew Baker/Redbridge Council

The borough received £2,373,111 from a £500m pot in the third tranche of Covid-19 funding. It represents a 2.7 per cent share of the total allocated to London.

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It compares to £4,003,375 in Newham and £2,452,177 in Barking and Dagenham.

Redbridge’s total extra funding to date amounts to £18,059,362.

Overall, the government has funded councils to the tune of £4.3billion. Of that, £3.7bn is not ringfenced, meaning local authorities can choose how it is spent.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Councils are playing a vital role in our national fight against coronavirus, providing a lifeline for so many communities at a time when they need it most.”

Redbridge Council supplied 4.25m items of personal protective kit to care homes, funded 1,700 packed lunches for schoolchildren and delivered medicine to sick and older people who were shielding. It also reports housing 157 homeless people.

Support for domestic abuse victims was ramped up too. The council calculates the work cost £60m with the government paying back £17m.

Cllr Athwal said: “The government promised to refund us for this work and more and we’re still waiting for them to live up to that promise. Local people are being let down and they deserve better.

“All we’re asking for is the money we’re owed,” Cllr Athwal added.


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