No 10 denies leaving councils in the dark over lockdown changes

Downing Street has insisted it is engaging with local authorities after complaints council leaders were learning of lockdown changes at the same time as the public.
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Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said yesterday that hearing of new measures or the lifting of restrictions at the daily briefing made it difficult for councils, who need to adapt quickly, to keep up.

In reference to the announcement made by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday to ease the lockdown, Ms Blake said: “In common with other local authorities, we were very struck that the stay at home and stay safe message is one that was clearly understood.

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Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake. Photo: JPI MediaLeader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake. Photo: JPI Media
Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake. Photo: JPI Media

“We are trying to make it clear from our perspective. What is difficult in these circumstances is when [councils] get announcements through the briefings late on an afternoon, or in this case on an evening, without the guidance attached to it.

“It makes it difficult for us to immediately respond because we don’t know the detail, we don’t know the implications and we don’t know how it will be worked through.

“We will pick a practical view of these matters. The strongest message that we can all give out as local authorities is staying safe.”

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But the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman today said the Government was working closely with local leaders.

He said: “I think we are engaging with local councils, the Prime Minister has held discussions with regional mayors and they’ve talked about how we can work together particularly on the recovery from coronavirus, and his colleagues are working closely with town halls across the country as well.”

It comes as Labour warned councils faced a £10bn black hole for councils in coming years.

Their analysis, based on 2019/2020 budgets, said local authorities may need to find £3.5bn of savings in social care alone, plus £2bn in children’s social care and £700m in public health.

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In Yorkshire, the social care cuts could equate to 23,155 care places being lost, compared to 225,000 nationally.

Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, Steve Reed said: “Local authorities are the biggest funders of social care in England – so when the Government promised to stand behind councils through this crisis Labour supported them.

“But now ministers are breaking that promise, leaving councils with a £10bn black hole forcing 21 per cent cuts across the board. Unless the Government drops those plans the frontline heroes we’re cheering today will lose their jobs tomorrow and the equivalent of 225,000 frail and frightened older people and vulnerable adults will lose the support they rely on.”

However the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Robert Jenrick has already announced two support packages and I think it’s been made clear we’d keep the situation under review.”

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