Pandemic fight leaves Kirklees Council with £4.6m overspend

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Huddersfield Town HallImage source, Chris Allen/Geograph
Image caption,
Kirklees was among the areas of West Yorkshire subject to local lockdown restrictions

A council placed under local lockdown restrictions has said it is facing a multi-million pound overspend as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kirklees Council said it overspent by £7.7m during the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, £4.64m of which went on fighting the outbreak.

The authority, parts of which have now been removed from tighter restrictions, has called on the government to help.

The government said it had given "unprecedented support" to councils.

Image source, LDRS
Image caption,
Councillor Graham Turner has called on the government to provide extra financial support for the council

Cabinet member Graham Turner told councillors on Tuesday he and council officers would be working "very hard" to ensure the delivery of a financially neutral position by year end.

But, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said the government "must come up with some more support in the coming months" adding that local authorities had been told to "do whatever it takes".

He said he welcomed the support received so far from government, both directly to the council to support its activities and through the rates grant scheme, as well as the Discretionary Assistance Fund, which had enabled it to support local businesses.

However he warned the "real challenge" will be setting the 2021/22 budget.

Last month the deputy leader of Calderdale Council, which was also placed under local restrictions, said Covid-19 had hit its finances like "a tsunami of horror".

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statement said: "Kirklees Council has received over £28 million in emergency funding. This is in addition to a core spending power increase of £19.8 million in 2020/21."

The council had received more than £170 million in total from the government, it added.

Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch, whose constituency remains under the additional restrictions, said she hoped the tighter rules could be lifted as soon as possible.

"We want those additional measures lifted but we need government support, [extra] resources and the confidence in Test & Trace to be able to do that safely."

Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said the decision not to ease restrictions in her constituency would have a "massive impact" and called for more transparency about the criteria for imposing local measures.

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