Petition calls on Government to fill £45million Redbridge pandemic cost shortfall

Thousands of Redbridge residents have signed a petition demanding the Government fill the “black hole” in the council’s finances caused by the coronavirus.

Cllr Jas Athwal says the council has spent more than £60 million dealing with the pandemic but has only received £15.7 million funding, leaving a £45 million shortfall.

Without “full compensation”, he warned that services like parks, rubbish collection and street lighting are at risk.

Redbridge Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett does not support the petition and has questioned how much of the shortfall is due to “ongoing mismanagement of taxpayers’ money”.

Cllr Athwal said the Government had “promised full compensation” for spending on coronavirus but “have since done a U-turn”.

He said: “It is outrageous that the Government is now withholding almost our entire annual budget for council services at a time when our residents are really struggling. They must honour their promise to properly compensate us.

“We stepped up during the national crises caused by Covid-19 and put in place essential services to protect and support our residents.  Despite incredibly pressurised circumstances, we were agile, able to meet local needs and effective.

“The majority of our expenditure goes towards supporting the most vulnerable in our local community – it is these people that the Government are putting at risk by going back on their word.

“We want everyone in the borough to support us – without these funds, the services our residents and businesses value most, social care, libraries, household waste services and leisure facilities, will all be at risk.”

A council spokesperson said more than 2,000 people had signed the petition in the first two days.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said councils around the country had been given an “unprecedented package of support”.

They said: “On June 15 we announced we are working on a comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability over the coming year.

“We will continue to work closely with councils as they support their communities through this national emergency.”

The petition can be viewed here: https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/about-the-council/stronger-together/

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter