Speaking at Coleshill Town hall in North Warwickshire the Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Andrew Gwynne MP, has warned that local council services are on their knees and Theresa May has already promised further cuts up to 2020. Without a change of course, austerity will destroy local government.
Speaking shortly before the budget,Mr Gwynne warned that Conservative controlled Northamptonshire County Council might be the first of a number of councils to collapse in a sea of debt and cuts. He had just met with Nuneaton and Bedworth Council Leader Cllr Julie Jackson, who emphasised the concerns of council leaders of all parties across the country about the damage being done to local services in Warwickshire.
Mr Gwynne said, “Since 2010, local Councils have had the biggest cuts in funding ever. Services have been slashed to the bone; yet most people do not realise that up to 2020, the Chancellor has hardwired into government budgets a further £1.3Billion of cuts in council services. Schools, roads, leisure amenities and services for the disabled and the elderly will be the victims of these cuts. At her recent party conference, Theresa May promised she would end austerity, but failed to mention that she had not stopped the planned cuts in local government.
“Politics is about priorities and we know the Tory priority. During the last budget debate, I highlighted the dire state of children’s services and proposed an amendment to add £2B to children’s services. The Chancellor and his MPs voted against £2B for children’s services but then announced their priority: to cut £5B from the “Bank Levy”. The Bank Levy is the repayment by banks to the taxpayer for the bail-out a decade ago. Conservative MPs voted to give money to bankers, before children.
“The priority of a Labour Government would be children’s services first and the bankers would pay for it. The Conservative priority was to give money to bankers and children are paying for it. People are increasingly realising that this government is so fixated on their internal rows over Brexit, that local services are being allowed to collapse around them.”
Cllr Julie Jackson praised Andrew Gwynne. “Frankly, it was a breath of fresh air to talk to an MP who understands the pressures on councils like Nuneaton and Bedworth. Andrew is a former councillor, who knows how the further government cuts will decimate local services.
“Councils are funded partly by council tax and partly by central government grants; when those grants are slashed, it means council taxes must rise and services must be cut. Nearby Northamptonshire, a Conservative council, recently collapsed. At our town hall, we still balance the books; but there is a limit. Councils have been squeezed beyond the pips squeaking. Local government is in trouble and that means everyone who relies on council services to collect bins or mend the road or educate their children needs to wake up and smell the coffee.”