Following a meeting in November to discuss the impact of the Government’s spending review between John McDonnell MP Shadow Chancellor, Lilian Greenwood MP Shadow Secretary of State for Transport and senior local government leaders; Joe Anderson Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Bullock Mayor of Lewisham, Graham Chapman Deputy Leader of Nottingham, Richard Leese Leader of Manchester, Kieran Quinn Leader of Tameside, Sharon Taylor Leader of Stevenage and Anne Western Leader of Derbyshire, the Labour MPs and Council Leaders released a joint statement, saying:
“Labour councils and councillors across the country have and will continue to innovate, run their authorities well and to do everything possible to defend local communities, protect those who rely on public services and, unlike the government, continue to set balanced budgets. Labour councils have led the way in driving economic growth, creating jobs and building homes.
“The Government’s cuts to funding for local councils are tearing apart the fabric of our local communities. Around the country, libraries and children’s centres are shutting their doors, old people are not getting the care they need and deserve, youth services are disappearing, roads are going unrepaired and local communities are losing the tools for economic growth.
“The cuts are ideologically driven, unfairly distributed, are putting pressure on all other public services. The Government responsible for reducing funding to such intolerable levels is attempting to lay the blame at the feet of local councillors.
“The Conservative cuts to council budgets are not primarily intended to reduce the deficit. Instead, they demonstrate the Tories’ ideological plan to shrink the state. While they have cut councils’ funding by 40% they have increased funding for the Cabinet Office and cut taxes for the wealthiest.
“Funding cuts have hurt those most in need. In March the IFS assessed the impact of the austerity measures ordered by the Government and found that that the poorest areas are being cut much more deeply than wealthier areas. The 10 most deprived local authority areas have lost £782 per household while the 10 wealthiest areas lost just £48 per household.
“The Government have closed their eyes to the damage they are causing to communities. Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee’s report into local government cuts said: “Value for money could be undermined by reductions in spending which lead to ‘cost-shunting’ between local government and other service providers – for example, reductions in social care provision leading to bed blocking in NHS hospitals”. Even the Prime Minister displayed wilful ignorance of his own policies when he complained to his local council about service cuts.
“Cuts to local government are an attempt by the Conservative government to push the blame for cuts down to local government while dismantling the welfare state. Their forced sale of council homes – without funding replacements – further demonstrates their strategy to abdicate responsibility for the worst decisions they are making.
“It is time to bring unfair cuts to an end and to set up fair and sustainable funding for local communities and the services they rely on.
“Labour at every level opposes unfair cuts to local councils, recognises the value to communities of high quality public services, is committed to driving economic growth and will always seek to protect services that help make society fairer.”
This powerful statement means a lot to all of us who have campaigned for fair funding for local government. It is important that MPs, Councillors, Trade Unions and Labour Party members work together to highlight the damage these Tory cuts are doing. It is also important to emphasise that despite these massive, unfair cuts, and in incredibly difficult circumstance, Labour in local government continues to deliver for our communities.
Around the country, Labour Councils are building new Council housing, paying workers the living wage, building new affordable Council housing, tackling rouge landlords, helping residents reduce energy bills and tackling fuel poverty, securing new jobs and apprenticeships, and helping people back to work, tackling payday lending, promoting the use of credit unions, regenerating our communities, supporting local businesses, developing new models of integrated health and social care, providing free school meals to school children, pioneering new ways of improving public health, using ethical procurement policies and challenging companies guilty of blacklisting workers, improving roads and access to transport and supporting refugees.
In incredibly difficult circumstances, our Councillors show the difference voting Labour makes.