Council protests over Covid funding snub

portrait of man
Lambeth council leader Jack Hopkins

Lambeth council leader Jack Hopkins has protested to the government after Lambeth was left off a list of London boroughs invited to bid for £23m of funding to communicate the importance of vaccinations to communities most at risk from Covid-19.

Lambeth is one of the most diverse areas in the UK and currently has an “incredibly high” rate of infection, according to council health and social care lead Cllr Jim Dickson, who joined the protest to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for communities and local government.

In a joint letter, he and Hopkins called for another, immediate, round of funding available to all London boroughs in an open process “so that no part of our city is left without the support we need to continue the vital work we are doing to protect our most at-risk communities”.

The list below shows the London boroughs that did receive funding, and the amount

Local Authority Requested amount as provided (£) 
Brent 733,333
Harrow 495,000

Lambeth council today announced an extension of its community testing for people without Covid symptoms which began in the town hall in Brixton.

While more then 7m people in the UK have now received a first dose of vaccine, numbers in London are low compared with other parts of the country.

“Lambeth was left out of this initiative despite having large Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, which all evidence suggests need more support to access the vaccine and be reassured around the safety and importance of it,” the councillors said.

“It is deeply confusing that one of the most diverse boroughs in the entire country was not invited to bid for the vaccine funding, especially at a time when we see significant concern in our communities about vaccine hesitancy – which is what this funding is supposed to be helping to solve,” said Hopkins.

He said a new round of funding was vital to the work the council is doing to protect its most at-risk communities, adding: “no borough should be left out of receiving this funding because of an arbitrary decision”

The councillors’ letter said that Lambeth has worked closely with partners in the NHS and community groups on a plan to tackle “vaccine hesitancy” among Black and ethnic minority residents in particular.

“This work is resource-intensive and requires significant investment and engagement from government to ensure it is effective,” the letter said.

“This has, so far however, not been forthcoming.

“We understand boroughs were invited to apply, and even chosen, based on a set of criteria for this limited funding, but there has been no transparency.

“One of the most diverse boroughs in the entire country was not invited to bid for it, at a time when we see significant concern in our communities about vaccine hesitancy.

“The initial figures on the roll-out also indicate that the government’s current strategy is failing to reach some of the groups who are most at risk from Covid-19.

“Throughout this crisis, top-down national programmes have failed, while local government and local public services have stepped into that gap.

“We know that our communities want to hear from trusted local voices and all evidence shows that such voices would be the best way to reach those who are vaccine hesitant or as yet not fully informed about it.

“We know from other boroughs across London that this arbitrary decision has caused similar concern and we support the calls for another immediate round of funding, open to all boroughs to bid for in an open process, to support councils with the vital work of protecting our most at-risk communities.”