• Help for our local Councils

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    28 April 2020

    I am not sure whether there is another constituency in the country which covers four district councils (Central Devon includes part of West Devon, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and East Devon), but if there is, I'm sure their MP has the same admiration as I have for how hard council staff are working to continue delivering the public services that we rely on. They are doing so in very different circumstances and without some of their sources of income (leisure centres have closed and income from car parks for example has reduced dramatically).

    I raised this issue with the Chancellor through my role as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and I'm very pleased that an additional £1.6 billion of funding has now been pledged to support councils in England. This takes the total funding made available to help councils respond to the pandemic to over £3.2 billion. While the first tranche of funding was mostly directed at county councils to support adult social care and children's services, district councils are likely to be the main beneficiary of this second tranche to help them meet their responsibilities. These include waste and recycling collections and providing accommodation for rough sleepers (over 90% of people on the streets at the beginning of the crisis and known to local authorities have been offered safe accommodation).

    District councils are also playing an important role in processing business grants - the Government has distributed £12.3 billion to local authorities in England as part of the Small Business Grants Scheme, supporting businesses through the pandemic. As of 20th April, £6.11 billion had been paid out to 491,725 businesses. Of this, around £775 million had been paid out to over 65,000 businesses in the South West including £174.7 million in Devon. District councils are also assisting with benefit payments are are helping with the distribution of tier 1 food parcels. 

    The funding will be paid through a grant that is not ring-fenced so local authorities, who know their communities best, can decide how it is spent. Councils will also be allowed to defer £2.6 billion in payments to central government, and £850 million in social care grants will be paid up front this month to ease immediate pressures on local authority cash flows. 

    As Central Devon covers around half of Dartmoor, I have also been in communication with Dartmoor National Park Authority Chief Executive Kevin Bishop and have been impressed by the authority's response to the pandemic. The work of their rangers in checking that vehicles not travelling to Dartmoor for non-essential reasons has helped enforce the lockdown and their Coronavirus Community Support Grants have already helped organisations in Chagford, Moretonhampstead, Bovey Tracey, Ashburton and Buckfastleigh. Crucially DNPA has already started work on a recovery plan to help communities and businesses when restrictions are lifted.

    Thank you again to our NHS staff and other key workers. Take care and stay safe. 

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit