Somerset Council replies to MPs remarks
Last week we reported remarks made by Ian Liddell Grainger in Parliament. In those remarks he accused Somerset County Council in strident terms saying: “Somerset County Council has been given huge grants but has then diverted much of the money to balance its books, which is not what it was for. These cowboys want to become a new unitary authority. It is a con trick to use that cash, which was meant to fight covid. The Prime Minister is Somerset born and bred. I urge him to put a stop to this, so that the money goes to the people who need it most—the people of Somerset.“
After we pointed out that this attack was made in Parliament, Mr Liddell Grainger repeated the remarks on his blog. However it is notable that he changed the wording significantly. There might be a reason for that! This is what he had to say without the protection of Parliament “Millions of pounds was given to Somerset County Council to help alleviate the Covid crisis. Many people are now seriously concerned that substantial sums may have been quietly siphoned off to help the county balance its books in time to make a credible bid for unitary status. I call it a con trick.“
But what do Somerset County Council have to say. A letter has now been written to the prime Minister setting out their point of view in detail. It is worth putting on the record. Not least to check against what happens next….
Dear Prime Minister
I was extremely disappointed to hear the comments made in the Commons yesterday by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP concerning Somerset County Council’s alleged use of Covid-19 funding and felt compelled to write directly to you to ‘set the record straight’.
Firstly, I wish to state that we are extremely grateful for the funding support received from your Government and the further funding announced by the Chancellor as part of the provisional finance settlement.
I can confirm to you that Somerset County Council is spending all of the Covid-19 funding it has (and will) received in full compliance of the requirements of the various grants and is being used as your Government intended – to help residents, communities and businesses in Somerset. I can appreciate however that the Covid-19 funding framework for Councils is complex and for the uninformed can be very confusing.
Covid-19 funding has enabled Somerset to help keep infection rates among the lowest in the country. To date we have received just under £32m of emergency funding which has been used in line with Government guidelines to cover additional costs such as PPE, supporting Districts with housing the homeless, supporting our community sector, dealing with extra demands particularly in areas such as Social Care, supporting our care providers, funding for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, LA Emergency Assistance Grants for Food & Essential supplies, Schools & College Transport capacity, the Covid-19 Winter Grant scheme and the Contain Outbreak Management Fund.
The further £10.8m of Covid-19 funding that was announced as part of the 2021/22 provisional finance settlement will also continue to be used in this appropriate way.
I can confirm to you that we have fully completed the returns and claims that have been required of us by your Whitehall Departments and we will continue to comply in full.
Finally and very sadly, can I say how much I regret that you and your team’s focus on leadership at this critical time should have been diverted by a lack of understanding from an MP who has failed to attend any briefing with myself or the Chief Executive for a significant number of months.
With kind regards
Cllr David Fothergill
Leader of Somerset County Council