There will be no more funding to help councils deal with outbreaks of COVID, the Government has confirmed.
Local government has been putting pressure on the Treasury to extend the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) beyond the end of the financial year today.
It is believed both levelling up secretary Michael Gove and health secretary Sajid Javid wrote to the Treasury to ask for an extra £100m, in addition to calls for more cash from both the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Public health.
But at the 11th hour, the Government has revealed it expects councils to return to pre-pandemic protocols for handling respiratory diseases. As a result, there will be ‘minimal’ COVID-19 specific activities and no need for funding.
The move comes despite the fact that current COVID rates are rising.
Vice chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Louise Gittins, said the ‘disappointing’ decision would mean council public health teams will ‘only be able to conduct minimal COVID-19 specific activities going forward’.
‘This will constrain the ability councils have to detect new variants in communities, tackle outbreaks in at-risk settings and recruit and retain vital public health staff,’ she warned.
‘It is clear there will need to be a continuing role for councils and their public health teams as we move to a new phase of this pandemic so this funding decision could have a significant impact on public health services – such as reducing childhood obesity and treating substance misuse – and wider local government funding pressures.’
Confidential figures are understood to show that local areas that have spent all of their COMF allocation have the highest COVID transmission levels and infection rates.