Tory MPs Blasted For Avoiding Debate On Cash Crisis Facing Councils

'It is symbolic of their attitude towards local government.'
Shadow communities and local government secretary Andrew Gwynne
Shadow communities and local government secretary Andrew Gwynne
PA Wire/PA Images

Tory MPs have been criticised for failing to turn up to a debate on the cash crisis being faced by local councils across the country.

A National Audit Office report earlier this month revealed town halls have had their funding cut by half on average in recent years and have been forced to reduce public services.

Labour’s Mike Amesbury tabled the issue in Westminster Hall - a smaller debating forum which allows MPs of all parties chance to interact in a less confrontational manner than the Commons chamber - on Tuesday, but no Conservative backbenchers took part.

Amesbury, a former Manchester councillor and shadow communities and local government secretary Andrew Gwynne said the move was “symbolic” of the government’s attitude towards councils, which they claim are in “crisis”.

“Not a single backbencher turned up to defend their government’s record or to stand up for the services their communities rely on,” Amesbury told HuffPost UK.

“Just as concerning for councils, however, will be the frighteningly complacent ‘you’ll have to wait and see’ attitude of the government to future funding.”

Gwynne said even Conservative-run authorities - including Chancellor Philip Hammond’s own Surrey Council - had made desperate pleas for more financial help, while other MPs raised huge social care funding gaps and spikes in the number of children in care.

“We know that local councils are on their knees,” he added.

“And if Surrey Council are facing problems, what hope is there for the Liverpools. for the Tamesides, for the Hulls of this world?

″These cuts are unsustainable. This government fails to give our services the money they need, and ignores the crisis that is happening on their watch in our communities.”

Housing minister Heather Wheeler - the only Conservative MP who spoke in the debate - said she believed the government had shown it was “alive to the challenge” local councils faced.

“We have a clear plan for reform,” she added.

“I look foward to working closely together with many colleagues in the coming months on the challenges and opportunities facing local government.”

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid
PA Wire/PA Images

Wheeler said the government was giving councils more power to bolster their own incomes through a business rate retention scheme.

But earlier the same day, secretary of state Sajid Javid admitted many authorities would receive less than they expected due to an “error” while the project was being trialled.

His department was branded “a complete and utter shambles” by Gwynne.

“Local government needs clarity and detail on future funding models now,” Amesbury said.

“The failure of the government to give any indication as to how this is progressing is a damning illustration of why the National Audit Office were absolutely right in their assertion that the government does not have a long-term funding plan for local authorities.”


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