CORNWALL’S CORONAVIRUS BILL IS MORE THAN £74M


Cornwall Council has revealed that its bill in tackling coronavirus has topped £74 million.

The latest figure was revealed at a meeting of the full council this week after a councillor asked whether the government had kept to a commitment to reimburse costs incurred by local authorities.

Leigh Frost posed the question to council deputy leader Adam Paynter stating that Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, had said in March that local councils would get support for any costs.

The council has had to undertake projects including putting patients discharged from hospital into hotels, building a temporary mortuary at Newquay airport, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) for care homes and providing accommodation for homeless people.

Cllr Paynter said: “Currently the council has not been fully compensated for the cost of the covid-19 pandemic and has spent £74 million.

“We have had £34 million from the government so far which is not ringfenced. We are awaiting the details of the further funding announced last week.”

Cllr Paynter said that local councils had been told that they could “bill the NHS” for some of the cost of taking people out of hospital.

However he said that when the government announced that it would support local councils it did not factor in the losses which local authorities would have from reduced income from car parking, council tax and business rates.

He said: “While they knew the costs were going up but underestimated the loss of income through council tax and business rates.”

Conservative councillor David Harris said that the £74m figure was a “bigger figure than anything I have seen before” and asked if that included anything from before the pandemic.

Cllr Paynter said that the £74m total had been given to him by the council’s senior finance officer and included the losses which had not been previously taken into account.

Councillors heard that the council would continue to wait to see what additional funding would be made available from the government and work with Cornwall’s MPs to ensure the council gets the funding it needs.

The meeting also heard from cabinet member Tim Dwelly, responsible for economy and planning, who said the council would also be pressing the government for more funding to help businesses affected by the pandemic and lockdown.

He said the council was close to distributing all of the £13.5m which had been allocated for a discretionary grant fund which was made available for businesses which had not been eligible for earlier funding provided by the Government.

However Cllr Dwelly said there had been thousands more expressions of interest in the fund and that an additional £27m would be needed to fulfill all of those requests.

He said: “Cornwall Council, together with the business community, has consistently been calling on the government to make more budget available for these discretionary grants.

“We will write to the government again this week asking for £27m to fulfil the grant scheme overall.”“We will write to the government again this week asking for £27m to fulfil the grant scheme overall.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.