A SOMERSET MP said he is 'still far from satisfied' with Somerset County Council's response to allegations that they used Covid-19 grant funding to balance their books.

This week the county council's leader Cllr David Fothergill wrote to the Prime Minister to 'set the record straight' after Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger accused them of misdirecting emergency funding.

But Mr Liddell Grainger said he believes that 'a large proportion' of the Covid grant funding has been 'stashed away or used for other purposes' and is 'still far from satisfied with the vague assurances the council leader has offered to the Prime Minister.'

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The MP sent a letter back to Mr Fothergill on Thursday (January 14).

The letter said: "Somerset County Council’s use of government Covid-19 emergency funds continues to provide cause for concern.

"Published council papers show that almost £10 million has been sitting in a non-allocated SCC reserve fund for several months.

"Some of that money appears to have been shifted into a car park reserve fund. The publication of “Your Somerset”, a freesheet which carries extensive advertorials for SCC’s unitary ambition, is also being financed with Covid-19 grants.

"The latest published financial appendices in advance of next week’s SCC Cabinet meeting clearly state that Covid grants are not ring-fenced.

"If the government has not ring-fenced this money then you have a moral duty to the people you represent to account to the public for every penny.

"One reason I no long attend your “briefings” is because they reveal nothing and I have never been convinced that I have been told the entire story.

"Additional proof of your reticence has been conveyed to me today. I understand you have been given exact figures for the current state of vaccinations in the area served by SCC but have so far refused to divulge them. Why the secrecy? If the infection figures can be published so should vaccination figures.

"Your letter states that there are 700 redeployed Somerset county council staff involved in helping to rollout the vaccination programme.

"700 may be your ultimate hope, but so far only ten per cent of that number has been deployed.

"Covid has is causing tragic human cost. Truth should not be another victim. I hope you clearly understand this."

But Somerset County Council continues to deny claims that it used Covid-19 grants to balance its books.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We would like to make it clear, once again, that all Covid-19 funding has been used as intended – to support Somerset residents, communities and businesses during the pandemic.

"Not all funds have been spent yet and we have £10.8m in a specific Covid-19 reserve to provide additional support for 2021/22.

"This approach is in line with Government guidance and is clearly and transparently set out in our budget papers.”