Cllr Jack Hopkins is the Leader of Lambeth Council and is a councillor in Oval ward. Below is the text from his letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to honour the pledge to cover the costs of coronavirus.
17th April 2020
HONOUR THE PLEDGE TO COVER THE COSTS OF CORONAVIRUS
Dear Prime Minister,
Local government has been at the forefront of the national effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and to support our communities through it. At a time of great crisis, Lambeth council has stepped up – keeping essential services running for all residents, providing care services for vulnerable and elderly people who are discharged from hospital, ensuring all rough sleepers have a place to stay, increasing our welfare safety net for people who lose their jobs or income, supporting businesses and delivering thousands of food and care packages for vulnerable people.
Those vital services are just a handful of the ways in which our local council staff and volunteers have supporting Lambeth residents through this crisis.
We’ve worked in partnership with central government where possible, though unfortunately have had to face major challenges in terms of inadequate amounts of PPE for frontline staff, lack of testing and poor-quality food provision from government.
It is right and essential that local government has acted in this way, and we will continue to be at the frontline of the efforts to fight the virus and of the eventual recovery. But the crisis is placing a major burden on already stretched council finances.
As we have submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, we initially estimate the additional spending pressures as a result of the crisis, including establishing the hubs to distribute care packages to thousands of vulnerable residents, to be over £18 million.
In addition, the impact on the council’s income, from areas including fees and charges, parking, council tax and business rates, is estimated to be £27 million.
While we cannot be certain about the impacts due to the lack of clarity on the status of the lockdown and measures that will follow, our initial estimate of the possible financial impact on Lambeth council is around £45 million.
We welcomed early messages from the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that local councils would be fully funded for all costs caused by this crisis. However, the recent apparent backtracking on the commitment to do so risks leaving councils with a devastating gap in the finances and leaving local services and local residents to bear the brunt of it.
This would be completely unacceptable and a betrayal of vulnerable people the government claims to be protecting, and the incredible staff who have put their lives on the line to support them. £45 million is more than we spend on bins, recycling, parks, libraries, children centres, roads and pavements and community safety combined.
After a decade of government spending cuts to local services, local government cannot afford, and will not accept, further austerity or the burden of this crisis falling on the vulnerable people who depend on those services.
This crisis has shown the true value of public services and the key workers who have kept this country running. I urge you to ensure your government keeps its commitment to those workers and the residents who rely on those services now and that local government is fully funded for its work to alleviate the crisis.
Councillor Jack Hopkins
Leader of Lambeth Council
P.s I hope you are recovering well from your recent time in hospital in Lambeth and want to send you and your family our best wishes in the current crisis