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Covid-19: Support for Local Authorities

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

What steps his Department is taking to support local authorities during the covid-19 outbreak. (914308)

We have so far allocated over £9 billion directly to councils since the start of the pandemic and local authorities are expected to receive over £3 billion of additional support in 2021-22, responding both to expenditure pressures and loss of income. This takes the total support that we have committed to councils in England to tackle the impacts of covid-19 to over £12 billion.

On 11 November, I and other representatives from Sheffield met the Minister to express concern that the loss of income to leisure centres in Sheffield was not being refunded to the council because the centres are managed by an arm’s length trust. I understand now from the council that the Government have recognised that the extra expenditure given from the council to the leisure trust to compensate for loss of income has been refunded —at least significantly—by the Government. I thank the Minister for that and for the help that he has given. Unfortunately, locally the Lib Dems have tried to claim that some of this money has gone from the council to the trust not to fund services in Sheffield, but to fund leisure centres in Scarborough. Will the Minister reassure me and residents in Sheffield that the money that he has given to Sheffield City Council has gone properly to fund services in Sheffield and nowhere else, and indeed, as the chair of the trust has confirmed, that all the money given to the trust by Sheffield City Council is funding leisure centres in Sheffield and nowhere else?

I thank the Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee for that question. I was grateful to meet him and Julie Dore last year, and I know how important this matter is to the hon. Gentleman and his community in Sheffield. We have provided councils with a range of support for covid pressures on local leisure services, including unring-fenced grants, income compensation and the specific national leisure recovery fund. In all cases, Sheffield will comply with the funding conditions. My expectation would be that all that funding should be used locally to support local services in Sheffield and—he is absolutely right—not be transferred to other areas.