Latest government funding comes nowhere near to bridging budget gap say Redbridge Council leaders

Redbridge Council’s leadership have called the latest round of Government funding “frankly insulting” compared to their total overspend of almost £70 million.

On July 2, the Government announced a further £500 million to help local authorities respond to the spending pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, £2.37 million of which went to Redbridge.

Deputy leader Kam Rai (Lab, Goodmayes) told a cabinet meeting on July 21 that this latest chunk of emergency funding went nowhere near plugging their budget gap.

The council’s chief executive Andy Donald warned that the size of the financial deficit “could lead to some very difficult decisions for the council”.

Cllr Rai said: “£2.37 million represents just over 5 per cent of the problem that we have.

“It’s a welcome amount – every penny that I receive I will take from the government – but it still means that we are extremely short.

“For us to get a figure that’s five per cent of that gap is fairly insulting, to be frank. I’m looking forward to the government listening and giving us what they actually owe.”

Redbridge Council predicts that, despite £16 million in emergency funding and its own attempts to make savings, it will end the year with an overspend of more than £44 million.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal added: “Imagine if councils across the country had only done 5 per cent of the work to try to help residents.

“I think there’s a lot more work to be done and we will be doing that, we will certainly be pressuring the government further.”

In June, Redbridge Council created a petition calling on the government to fully compensate the council, which was signed by more than 2,000 people in the first two days.

Speaking at the time, Redbridge Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett questioned how much of the shortfall is due to “ongoing mismanagement of taxpayers’ money”.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter