Over the last nine years this disastrous Tory government has targeted its austerity agenda at the most deprived areas of the country whilst the Conservative voting areas have – in relative terms – been spared the worst of the cuts. This has all be done through the guise of manipulating existing funding models, but due to Government proposed changes it’s about to get worse.
In late December, whilst attention was focused on Brexit, the government proposed to change the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of focusing on the most deprived areas or those with the most need they’ll introduce new funding streams predominantly aiding more affluent Tory areas. This at a time when the Government should be reinvesting in our most at need areas not cutting them ever more to the bone.
So severe and urgent is the crisis facing our councils, that the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights mentioned it in the opening paragraph of his recent report, saying that local authorities had been “gutted by a series of government policies”.
Since 2010, councils have risen to the challenge of ‘making efficiency savings’ – but they’ve reached the end of the line, with so-called “non-essential services” being cut to the bone, leading to even deeper reductions to services that everyone relies on like street cleaning, libraries, and children’s centres, and to many of the preventative services that previously reduced the pressure on the NHS and police.
This is a crisis of the Tories’ creation, but as ever they are pushing the blame on to councils, communities, carers and families. While councils warn they are reaching a “tipping point”, the Tories are cutting ever more. The cross-party Local Government Association has stated that councils are facing a funding gap of £3.9billion just to maintain services in 2019/20 including £1.5billion gap in adult social care funding.
Homeless people will go unhoused, elderly and disabled people will go uncared for and vulnerable children will go unprotected. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, this is an unacceptable position to be in. The deterioration of social care alone will fundamentally damage the fabric of society as we know it. Huge amounts of money have been taken out of the system, despite obvious rising demand.
Tory cuts to local government are causing a wake of destruction to our social infrastructure meaning that the libraries, community centres and lunch clubs which people rely on for social interaction have been closed or cut-back. It’s time for a Labour government that will act in the interests of the many and not the few.
Andrew Gwynne is the shadow communities and local government secretary and Labour MP for Denton and Reddish
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