Local Member of the Welsh Parliament for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay, questioned the Minister for Housing and Local Government earlier this week on additional funding Monmouthshire County Council would need due to the impact of the pandemic.
Speaking in the Chamber Nick said: “I recently spoke with Monmouthshire County Council leader Peter Fox, who told me that the pandemic has understandably had a massive impact on local government resources and they are worried about the medium-term sustainability of statutory services, let alone non-statutory services. Monmouthshire County Council has seen a huge fall-off in funding this year, including business rates, but also from usually dependable sources such as parking charges.”
Nick added: “ As the COVID-19 situation continues to deteriorate, what discussions have you had with Monmouthshire County Council and other local authority leaders regarding resilience over the winter months to reassure them that funding support will be available to them as swiftly as possible so that they in turn are able to support local businesses and local services?”
In reply Julie James, MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government stated: “We have a very large range of liaison meetings with local authorities. I meet with the leaders extremely regularly; my officials and Rebecca Evans's officials meet with treasurer and other officials in the Welsh Local Government Association and individual local authorities so that we have as good a shared picture going forward as we possibly can between us of what the pressures look like in each individual local authority.
“The local authority hardship fund has been set up on an actuals basis, paid quarterly in arrears, in order to be able to cover off the individual circumstances of each local authority, and, as you've just rightly pointed out, Monmouth, for example, is heavily reliant—more reliant than other authorities in Wales—on council tax revenues, because of the structure of the revenue support grant distribution formula and other support networks. So, we're working very hard with them to understand on an individual basis the effect of their particular circumstances and to work with them in terms of putting claims into the hardship fund, as I say, on an actuals basis in order to get the money out to them.
The Minister concluded : “We also upfronted the revenue support grant payments at the beginning of the year in order to ensure that they didn't have cash-flow problems. So, it isn't a problem for them to claim the actual expenditure back in arrears. So, I'm as confident as I can be that we're on top of that situation. Much will, of course, depend on what the UK Government does in terms of a rollover budget or a comprehensive spending review or whatever it is we're looking at. In the meantime, we work very closely with local government to understand what the various scenarios might look like for them.”