Coronavirus: Islington Council leader says £1.6billion funding boost for local authorities will ‘keep the wolf from the door’

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The leader of Islington Council says extra government funding announced on Friday will “keep the wolf from the door” and protect key services, for now.

The government has pledged an extra £1.6billion to help local authorities during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has now given councils £3.2bn during the crisis.

This comes after scores of council leaders, including Cllr Richard Watts, warned there could be “catastrophic consequences” for public services unless extra funds were made available. Reacting to the funding announcement, Cllr Watts told the Gazette: “It certainly keeps the wolf from the door. I’m very pleased that our public calls for more funding were listened to quickly and, while Islington isn’t in this position, a number of councils across the country quite rapidly would have issued section 114 notices, which is effectively they’re bankrupt, had the government not done that quickly.”

Cllr Watts helped coordinate the national effort to lobby the government for more funding in his capacity as chair of the Local Government Association’s resource board. He added: “We are going to need more money after this but the government did indicate they are open to that.

“So I think some of the money worries are satisfied at this stage, certainly because of this announcement we’re not in a position where we have to start making any decisions about turning off the services.”

The Office For Budget Responsibility fiscal watchdog has warned that, if the lockdown lasts for three months, the UK economy shrink by 35 per cent this spring.

Cllr Watts said: “It would be catastrophic for the country and for Islington if the government responded to this economic crises like the last economic crisis, cut spending and introduced another round of austerity. Frankly, the government has to invest its way out of this crisis not cut its way out of this crisis, the double-dip recession eight or nine years ago showed austerity is a disastrous response to an economic downturn.”

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Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I promised local government would have the resources they need to meet this challenge and [this] demonstrates my commitment to doing just that. We stand shoulder to shoulder with local government and my priority is to make sure they are supported so they can continue to support their communities through this challenging time.”