Merton Council has revealed that the government has only covered a fraction of extra costs from the pandemic. 

Council authorities say that unless the government fully funds the cost of frontline services provided during Covid-19- there will have to be “serious cuts to local services” across the board. 

Figures published by the council’s Cabinet on Monday ( September 7 ) warn that from April 2021, the council will need to prepare to make unprecedented cuts. 

These savings are bigger than for any “next year” in the council’s history and five times greater than had been anticipated before the pandemic. 

Covid-19 has already cost Merton Council £26million more than the government has given the borough.

Your Local Guardian:

This amounts to more than a quarter of the £99.5million the council receives through council tax each year.

Despite the measures the council has put in place, including reducing other budgets by £3million this year, there remains a shortfall of £23million this financial year.

Although the government has indicated that further discussions will be held about additional support, the council’s cabinet member for finance and deputy leader, Councillor Mark Allison, has warned that time is running out, as Merton begins its 2021/22 budget setting process next month.

Your Local Guardian:

Councillor Allison said: “We are trying to take a business-like approach to our finances but residents should know we face an unprecedented budget gap, which will put all council services at risk of cuts if the Government does not cover the full cost of the pandemic. 

We are very disappointed that, after our staff have worked so hard to protect residents and provide essential services – even though this has put them at increased risk of contracting Covid-19.

“The council has spent years ensuring Merton is a great place for families, and our top priority remains to protect residents, control the outbreak and save lives. But if the government do not protect our finances, we will not be able to protect services.

“Our staff have risked everything to stop the virus and are doing all they can as we go into winter and face a possible second wave. 

"Now that we have reached the point when budgets need to be calculated, we need the Government to do the right thing and protect Merton’s services.”