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CORONAVIRUS: Maidstone Borough Council appeals for more government cash

Tuesday 28th April 2020

UNDER-pressure Maidstone Borough Council has appealed to the government for a handout as the authority careers towards a multi-million pound loss in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
MBC says it has spent five times what it has been given by the Treasury to deal with the fallout from COVID-19.
But one critic claims the Liberal Democrat-led council has £9m in readily available reserves and a balance sheet of £50m.
Lib Dem leader Martin Cox has written a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, complaining MBC must spend five times the £57,000 given by government in grants.
Cllr Cox expects to MBC will "lose £7.4 million in income this year, due to the slower collection of council tax and business rates as well as loss of fees and charges through the closure of council services like the leisure centre."
He added: “Our message to central government is clear; if they value the role of local government, it is essential that local councils receive significant more financial support than has hitherto been the case.”
But Bridge ward councillor Jonathan Purle told Daily Downs Mail: “I have a different view.  MBC is taking a revenue-hit now primarily because fewer people are using its car parks business and the like. But MBC sits on a balance sheet of £50m including usable reserves of about £9m. It can take this hit.  
"Our first thoughts should be with the thousands of people in Maidstone who’ve been laid-off or furloughed on reduced incomes – but in the main still have to pay the council tax - and the countless local businesses who are struggling to stay afloat.”  
MBC says it is currently estimated that, in total, Kent councils will spend an additional £126.4 million due to pressures caused by Covid-19 over the coming year.