AN EXTRA £500million to boost councils racking up huge financial losses due to the pandemic has been welcomed by the region’s town hall leaders.

But both Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, and Cllr Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, have questioned how far the funding will go to help the councils tackle their climbing coronavirus costs.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the extra funding last week in response to councils across the country reporting massive projected funding shortfalls.

The government says the extra, unringfenced cash is part of a “comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability for the future”.

And ministers have also announced a major new scheme to help reimburse lost income during the pandemic and boost cash flow.

Where losses are more than 5 per cent of a council’s planned income from sales, fees and charges, the government will cover them for 75p in every pound lost.

Prior to the announcement, North Yorkshire County Council said it hoped to avoid bankruptcy despite facing a funding gap of £42million.

Carl Les said its allocation of the £500million was not likely to make a major dent on the council’s deficit.

He said: “We can’t compute the numbers yet as we haven’t the detail. First thoughts are that another intervention is helpful, especially the £500million for Covid costs, but we are still projecting costs higher than the interventions.

“The income loss support helps us a bit, but we don’t operate many such services, so it’s more beneficial to the districts with big car parks and leisure centres.

“We will wait and see the detail, but as ever we are grateful to ministers for their support.”

It comes as some harder-hit councils are drawing up emergency budgets and warning that they may have to issue S114 notices – the mechanism used by local authorities to effectively declare bankruptcy.

Cllr Richard Cooper previously said this won’t be necessary for Harrogate Borough Council to tackle its £15million funding shortfall and has now welcomed the latest government announcement.

“This is good news from the government for local councils”, he said. “However, I am conscious that in the end this is all taxpayers’ money and so what helps the council taxpayer is inevitably a burden on general taxation down the line.

“I know some councils are in deep trouble but Harrogate Council isn’t one of them. We are not having to take emergency measures and this support from the government means that we have some clarity on our income going forward which is welcome.

“We cannot say how much this support will be worth yet as we haven’t seen details of the scheme but it reassures me that action is being taken to support councils, alongside businesses, the arts, the NHS and all other parts of our national life.”

Announcing the support package last week, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Councils are playing a huge part in supporting their communities during this pandemic. From supporting the most vulnerable and keeping vital services running to operating local track and trace, council workers have been at the forefront of this great national effort and are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.

“This government will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with councils and communities as we recover from this pandemic as we renew our commitment to unite and level up the country.”