Mersey Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram writes to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to warn the six city region local authorities are facing a massive cash shortfall in the next six months. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool city region’s six local authorities are facing a funding “black hole” of almost a quarter of a billion pounds due to the impact of coronavirus, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has told the Prime Minister.
Mr Rotheram has written to Boris Johnson saying the city region is facing its “greatest challenge since 1945”. He adds the Government’s current allocation of £100m for the region does not come close to the £341m it is estimated will be spent in the next six months.
He said the six local authorities – Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton – were spending an extra £10m a week to protect their residents during the COVID-19 crisis. The Combined Authority is also losing £5m a week.
Mr Rotheram said: “At the beginning of this crisis, local authorities were told by Government to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support communities. That’s what we have done – and the response from our local councils has been nothing short of incredible.
“But this response comes at a cost – and the figures involved are just startling. This is expenditure that we haven’t made by choice, but by necessity.
“We are putting food on the table for families who would otherwise go hungry, housing the homeless, co-ordinating a massive volunteer response, supporting those who are out of work due to the crisis, supplying PPE to our frontline workers and care homes, keeping transport running for essential journeys and doing everything we can to help local businesses stay afloat.
“For an area still fighting its way through funding cuts, whilst managing higher levels of deprivation and illness than other areas in the UK, it is a monumental task. Our bill to deliver all this is £341m for six months – and that’s before you even consider the prospect of a prolonged period of lockdown or worse still, a second peak of infection.
“The sums of money involved are a stark indication of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our communities. With a higher percentage of our population falling into the ‘at risk’ categories than in many other areas in the UK, the levels of support we’ve needed to provide have also been disproportionately higher.”
He adds that the Liverpool city region will find it “almost impossible” to bounce back if its local authorities are devastated by funding deficits running into hundreds of millions and are not supported by Government.
“The people of the Liverpool city region are resourceful, proud and passionate,” the Metro Mayor said. “They have shown great resolve in fighting this virus and supporting each other. With their help and with the support of local services we have the foundations to build a positive future after this crisis, but we need help to make that happen.”