Councils hit by fund's admin burden

By Dan Peters | 25 October 2021

Frustrated councils are bracing themselves for an administration headache as they work out how to dole out the Government’s £500m household support fund.

Local government insiders have complained about the administrative burden caused by the fund’s announcement, with mutterings that councils do not have the resources to make proper use of the funding.

Councils will be allowed to use a proportion of their allocations to cover the administrative burden but have been urged to keep the costs down.

One council source said: ‘I can’t underestimate the administrative burden that is being placed on local authorities.’

The Government had previously told councils not to expect any more funding to help residents pay for food and other essentials such as clothing and utilities.

Local authorities were then given very little notice that they would be put in charge of distributing the new fund, which civil servants have privately admitted was drafted ‘very quickly’.

Senior council chief executives are understood to have stressed to the Government that the short-term nature of such funding schemes made long-term planning difficult.

The Department for Work and Pensions is believed to have apologised to council officials for the stop-start funding model and is thought to have argued within Whitehall for much more certainty.

London Councils’ executive member for welfare, empowerment and inclusion, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said: ‘A time-limited, one-off grant announced at short notice and bringing new administration burdens is not the most efficient or effective way to deliver much-needed financial assistance.

‘While boroughs are pleased to see the Government making this money available we will continue to press for long-term investment in our existing local welfare provision.’

Chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, Cllr Shaun Davies, said the fund was a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the £6bn that has been removed by the withdrawal of the Universal Credit uplift, which had come at the ‘wrong time’.

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