The Chancellor must reverse decade-long cuts to local authority funding and hand greater control over taxes to councils in the Autumn Spending Review due today, the Green Party has urged.
Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s announcement, the Greens have highlighted how the centralisation of power and funding has hampered the country’s response to the coronavirus and climate crises.
Phélim Mac Cafferty, Green Party leader of Brighton and Hove Council, said:
“The repeated failures of the Conservative government throughout the pandemic have made it clear it is local councils which are effectively responding on the ground to their communities.
“From running effective test and trace services, to providing food and personal protective equipment (PPE), councils have risen to the challenge where national government policy, and outsourcing to private contractors, have clearly failed.”
Years of cuts to public services have left many councils on the brink, forced to make difficult decisions regarding funding to libraries, community centres and schools. According to the Local Government Association, local authorities have lost almost 60p in the £1 in real-terms since David Cameron’s Conservative government began it’s austerity programme in 2010.
News that Croydon council filed for bankruptcy only weeks ago should come as a warning to Conservative ministers that public services are at breaking point, precisely at the point when they are needed most.
It has been estimated that councils face a £2bn gap between the funding provided and the added financial pressures that will be faced as a result of the Covid pandemic.
“From adult social care to children’s services, libraries and public health, the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined that for many these services are a lifeline,” Mac Cafferty added.
“To steer us through this crisis we don’t just need emergency cash bungs, we need a complete rethink of how funding is provided to local communities, so they can not only survive but thrive in the world beyond Covid-19. Councils haven’t yet been offered ‘more’ money, they have been handed a sticking plaster for a broken bone.
“While we call for the greatest possible recognition of local public services in the spending review, we know that a decade of cuts to local services are not going to be swept away overnight. Most of all, it’s high time that the government put trust in our local communities and public services, who after years of cuts, deserve nothing less than genuine investment.”