Councils will receive an extra £919 million in emergency coronavirus funding to help them through the winter, local government minister Robert Jenrick has announced.
But with dozens of local authorities set to get less than £1 per head of their population, council leaders have warned it will not be enough to turn the tide on the financial challenges they face.
The latest pool of money will be the fourth round of emergency funding the Government has rolled out since March, and brings the total amount awarded to £4.6 billion.
The grants are not ringfenced, so cash-strapped councils under pressure because of the pandemic will be able to use them however they see fit.
There are wide variations across the country in the awards made – for county or unitary councils, the new funding ranges from £2.48 per person (Rutland) to £43.93 (Manchester).
For smaller district councils – which provide services such as housing and bin collections in areas where there is also a larger county council – funding ranges from 62p per person (Wealdon and Harrogate) to £10.31 (Burnley).
More than 30 district councils have been given less than £1 per head.
The coronavirus crisis has created a “perfect storm” for councils’ finances, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), both by increasing spending and reducing incomes.
Local authorities have incurred costs supporting rough sleepers and shielders, buying personal protective equipment (PPE) and helping with test and trace and infection control, while social distancing rules have increased costs of delivering services like social care.
At the same time their income from service charges, council tax and commercial rents has fallen.
Council leaders across the country have welcomed the additional funding, but warned it will not be enough to fully address the financial challenges they face.
Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “This much-needed support is helpful but significant challenges remain.
“It is vital that the Government addresses in full the financial challenges facing councils as a result of the pandemic, including all lost income and local tax losses.”
The latest round of funding is equivalent to £16.21 for every person in England. Overall, councils have been given £80.71 per head in emergency grants since March.
Authorities in London will benefit most from the latest round, with an average of £24.12 per person.
Those in the South West meanwhile have been awarded an average of £9.11 per person, the lowest rate in England.
The figures do not include individual support packages being negotiated by councils moving into Tier 3 restrictions, such as Greater Manchester, which had asked for £65 million to see it through a winter in lockdown.
Carl Les, finance spokesman for the County Councils Network, said the latest funding announcement was “unexpected and disappointing” for county authorities, warning it was not proportionate to the scale of the problems they face.
“Our members were already facing a funding shortfall, and it is critical that all councils receive the funding they need to cover additional expenditure, which will increase over the winter months,” he said.
“Even if these resources were proportionate, county authorities still face severe financial uncertainty in the next financial year and beyond, with underlying funding gaps exacerbated by coronavirus.”
The Government says its funding formula takes into account an area’s population size, levels of deprivation, the cost of delivering services in different parts of the country, and how much funding councils received in the previous three rounds.
Mr Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have backed local councils with the funding they need to support their communities, protect vital services and recover lost income.
“This extra £1 billion funding will ensure that councils have the resources that they need over the winter and continue to play an essential role on the front line of our response to the virus while protecting the most vulnerable and supporting local businesses.”