ESSEX County Council is to receive £4.5million to mitigate the impact of moving into the high alert tier of Covid restrictions.

The council's health boss John Spence previously said the Government would supply £3 million in funding after the council asked for Essex to be moved into the high Covid alert level.

But after a question from councillor Ivan Henderson at a recent meeting of the authority's cabinet, finance boss Chris Whitbread said the true figure is closer to £4.5 million.

Mr Whitbread said: "The actual sum of money we are expecting to receive from Government we believe in is in the region of £4.5 million.

"At the moment we are still waiting for guidance - this all only came by letter yesterday afternoon - and we're waiting for guidance as to what the actual moneys can be spent on.

"There are bound to be some recommendations attached to it as you can imagine.

"Literally we've only just heard about it so we are waiting for more detail."

Councillor Henderson suggested the council consider "stepping in, if the Government doesn't step up" over funding school meals for children over October half term.

He said: "It would be useful, when you do have the details of the criteria, to find out how that money can be spent and how and when that can be used to support people.

"I just wondered if there is an opportunity, because of the situation in a lot of our areas at the moment.

"The Government is refusing to carry on funding school meals during holiday period of October.

"I wondered if there is an opportunity for us to give support to over 30,000 young children who rely on free school meals in these hard times.

"Is there anything we can do at the council to step in if the Government doesn't step up?"

Council leader David Finch responded: "I think councillor Whitbread will be considering any pleas and requests he may be receiving from councillor Gooding, who is cabinet member for education.

"I am sure he will take your comment under advise and consider it very carefully."

After County Hall's bid to move Essex to tier two restrictions was approved, Mr Spence said the move "was never about money."

He told councillors: "This has been done purely because of what we have seen about the rise in cases across Essex and the projected rise in cases to come.

"We want to prevent further damage to the economy, we want to prevent hospitals from becoming so busy they can't treat other sufferers.

"We want to prevent a potential progress to tier three."