“SUNDERLAND could face an unparalleled care crisis, if the UK Government continues to back-track on its pledge to support councils in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis”.

That is the stark warning issued by Sunderland Labour Group leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, after the Government reneged a promise to support council’s to deal with the fall-out of the COVID-19 crisis.

New analysis reveals crippling cuts that will be forced on key frontline services, including adult social care in the North East, if the Government continues to back-track on its pledge to support councils in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. Local authorities are by far the largest funder of adult social care in England. They now face a £10bn Coronavirus black hole, forcing cuts across the board, including a £3.5bn cut to adult social care this year.

New analysis based on 2019/20 budget estimates, local authorities’ Coronavirus-related costs and income losses and adult social care budget data from the Kings Fund and Department for Health and Social Care, shows that there will be a £10bn Coronavirus black hole for local authorities, which would mean a £3.5bn cut to social care.

The figures show that the country faces a £3.5bn cut to adult social care, as well cuts of £2bn to children’s social care and £700m to public health. Other key services could also be at risk of cuts if the Government fails to plug the funding gap, including libraries, children’s centres, leisure centres, public parks, road safety, road gritting and street lighting.

Councillor Miller, who is leader of the Labour Group in the city, said: “The whole country faces an uphill battle as we deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as is always the case when cuts are made to local authorities, it is the most vulnerable people who suffer, and that is what we are about to see if the Government does not stick to its pledge to ensure that local authorities are not allowed to suffer a black hole in finances, brought about by COVID-19.

“Sunderland is a city that is suffering disproportionately already – we know that the health and social inequalities we face here are a factor in that, and those have been brought about by years of savage cuts by this Government. If the Prime Minister is really does want to ‘level up’ across the country, the support they extend to Sunderland will be a measure of just how serious they are about that.”

He added: “The Government’s furlough scheme has been a positive move, but we know that it masks an impending crisis as families feel the impact of job losses brought about by COVID-19. Sunderland will be hit hard by that. The implications of worklessness on the needs of the city, along with the untold long-term health implications survivors of disease will face, in a city that already has a high proportionate of vulnerable and unwell people will see the demand on this council reach unprecedented levels. How can we possibly go into that with a blackhole in council resources that would make it difficult to adequately support the current needs of the city, let alone future requirements post-COVID? There is a looming crisis and we all need to work together to overcome this.”

Government Ministers had promised to stand behind local authorities – who have stepped up to support the national effort to beat Coronavirus. On March 18, ministers provided assurances that the Government will provide “whatever funding is needed for councils to get through this and come out the other side”, a pledge that was repeated by Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

However, last week, Minister rowed back on those plans, with Communities secretary Robert Jenrick telling MPs that councils should not “labour under a false impression” that all costs would be reimbursed, provoking widespread anger amongst local government leaders and MPs.

“This crisis is truly devastating. And we are only just at the beginning of a long journey through this pandemic. We are staring down the barrel of a social care crisis of unprecedented proportions, and the only way we will be able to meet the needs of this city is with adequate support from Government. We must not see the most vulnerable in society shoulder the burden on COVID-19 as they did the last financial crisis and the devastating purge that followed.”