To receive a report from the Executive Director Resources on the campaign for fairer funding for Enfield.
Council is asked to note and agree the recommendations in the report.
Councillor Caliskan proposed and Councillor Maguire seconded a report of the Executive Director Resources on fairer funding for Enfield.
1. Councillor Caliskan in proposing the report highlighted:
· That the Council was under unprecedented financial pressure on account of the Coronavirus.
· At the start of the pandemic crisis, the Government had promised to cover any extra costs arising from the pandemic response.
· Enfield in good faith had acted quickly to support local people. They had organised food parcels, arranged prescription deliveries, provided local care homes with PPE grants, waived rents, administered grant fund relief and business rate reductions and provided housing for rough sleepers. They had done this in the belief that any extra costs would be covered by the Government.
· The Government were now however asking local taxpayers to cover the costs by asking councils to increase their Council Tax.
· Councillor Caliskan had written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to make sure that Enfield had the funding it needed to cover the extra costs incurred. She had approached the Leader of the Opposition to co-sign the letter, but the Leader of the Opposition had declined to do so.
· Many Enfield residents had lost their jobs and were suffering during the pandemic. The Leader felt that it was unacceptable for the Government to put the burden of the cost of the pandemic onto residents.
· The Government had so far only provided funding to cover 62% of the extra costs of the pandemic.
2. The response of Councillor Hockney on behalf of the majority opposition highlighting:
· The Conservative Group agreed that there was a need to address the issue of damping, which meant that Enfield received less funding than it was estimated that it needed, but in the letter to the Chancellor, the Leader had conflated several other issues, which meant that the opposition could not support it.
· This was a time when people should come together to support the Government.
· Enfield had received an increase in Government funding and the Government has stepped in to fund extra costs. Enfield residents had also benefited from the Government’s very generous furlough scheme and from business rate holidays.
· The ten percent increase in the Mayor of London’s precept was part of the reason for the need to increase council tax.
· More Labour than Conservative authorities were increasing council taxes.
3. Councillor Anderson for Community First highlighted the following:
· Support for what had already been said. Enfield’s unequal funding position had never been properly addressed and it was at a severe disadvantage in terms of low public health funding. The Council had also lost funding worth £193m, over the last decade.
· The large majority (82-84%) of Council funding came from Government. Only 10% from Council Tax. Council Tax could not make up the difference. The whole local government funding model needed reappraisal.
4. The comments of the majority group:
a. The council was under huge pressure and had suffered from massive funding cuts. This had had a devastating impact on services.
b. A council tax increase of 5% was an unfair burden to place on local residents, particularly when many were struggling financially.
c. The Government should refund the Council fully for the extra costs of the pandemic.
d. The Government needed to properly fund services for vulnerable people. Funding allocations were unfair. Westminster Council for example received 2.5 times more than Enfield for public health. The Council had suffered from 10 years of austerity under Conservative Governments. Enfield just wanted its fair share.
e. The one-year funding deal currently offered created no certainty. The issue of social care needed to be addressed urgently. The sticking plaster approach could not continue. The Government should recognise the crucial role of local government.
f. The Council had spent legitimate amounts of money on residents needs which the government should honour.
5. The comments of the majority opposition group:
a. The opposition believed in fairer funding for Enfield including for public health and had in the past always supported this, but they could not support this paper because it was not just about the longstanding damping issue.
b. The letter to the Chancellor went beyond this fairer funding.
c. Councils had a finite budget and had to operate within it. There could not be a blank cheque. The Council could not be surprised that the Government would not cover out of control costs or pre-existing debts.
d. Quarter two financial reports showed that the Council had enough money and did not need further financial support. The Government had already been generous, but this had not been recognised by the administration.
6. The summing up by the Leader, that the Government had promised at the start of the pandemic that Councils should do whatever was needed and that any money spent would be refunded. This promise had been broken. She could not understand why the opposition would not join with the administration to ask the Government to provide the funding that they had initially promised. This point of view was supported by the Conservative led Local Government Association.
After the debate the recommendations in the report were put to the vote and agreed with the following result:
1. To note the current financial context within which the budget for 2021/22 is being set.
2. To recognise and support the letter from the Leader of the Council to the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued on 18 January 2021 requesting the release of additional Government funding to help the local authority meet the costs incurred supporting residents and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. To set up a fair funding webpage to enable residents to show their support for the Council, that the Council should continue to lobby government for the full costs incurred through the Covid-19 pandemic, should they wish to do so.