Local Government funding 2 – “£1 BILLION SOCIAL CARE FUNDING GAP” – STEVE REED MP
Government cuts that are being imposed means that council tax payers will be forced to pay more while getting less, says Croydon North MP Steve Reed.
In his speech during the debate Mr Reed, who is also shadow minister (communities and local government) said the government have cut some NHS budgets, handed them over to local government to take the blame and included that figure in the core spending power so that it does not look like spending has fallen by so much overall.
“To partly fill the gap, the government’s funding assumptions expect councils to increase council tax by 1.7 pc a year, every year, and on top of that impose a 2 pc social care precept.
“That still leaves a giant £1 billion social care funding gap, which will hit the poorest communities in the country the hardest. “All that adds up to a 20 pc council tax rise over four years—a council tax rise that was designed in Downing Street. “The scale of the Government cuts that are being imposed means that council tax payers will be forced to pay more while getting less.
“As we have heard this afternoon, local government funding under this Government is deeply unfair. “That is illustrated by the fact that the 10 most deprived councils in England have been hit by cuts that are 18 times higher than those for the 10 least deprived councils.
“Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that during the last Parliament, social care spending fell by £65 per person in the most deprived areas. “We have more frail and older people in need of care, but less and less money to pay for the services they need.
“Even the Tory-led Local Government Association has warned that after the local government settlement, social care will still face a giant £l billion funding black hole by 2020.
“That can mean one of only two things: either more older and disabled people will be denied the vital services that they need, or other vital public services will be cut back even harder to make up the difference.
“That means services such as keeping street lights on at night, filling in potholes, repairing broken pavements, sweeping the streets, removing dumped rubbish, emptying the bins, maintaining parks, providing youth services and children’s centres and keeping libraries and museums open.
“All those things that affect the quality of life of every community are under threat because of the Government’s decisions on funding local services. “I urge the minister to explain whether it is his Government’s policy to close the funding gap and ensure that older people get the care that they deserve—or will he stand back and watch as services are decimated?
“The Government have come up with a cunning plan to cut the NHS while pretending to have kept their promise not to. “Services have been taken out of the NHS and then cut before being handed over to councils in the clear expectation that the councils will take the blame for the chaos that will follow.
“Particularly affected will be treatments for drug and alcohol abuse and work to tackle the country’s obesity crisis and to prevent sexually transmitted infections. “Not only is that a bad idea in health terms, but it makes absolutely no sense in financial terms. “We will all be made to pay the cost of dealing with health crises as they get worse because of short-sighted, short-term funding cuts. “In the words of the LGA, which, let us remember, is led by the Conservative party, these ‘drastic cuts will have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils.’
“Labour welcomes the Government’s proposal to allow the full retention of business rates, although we are disappointed that that will not happen before 2020. “Nevertheless, without an effective equalisation measure, the Government’s plans for business rates devolution will make the system even more unequal.
“Without certainty about what further services will have to be paid for, there is no knowing whether it is simply cover for yet more Government cuts.
“Westminster city council accounts for eight per cent of England’s entire business rates intake—that is more than Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined.
“The minister promised me in the main chamber that the chancellor would make the equalisation mechanism clear during the autumn statement, but the statement came and went with no announcement.
“Worryingly, the Municipal Journal quotes a senior official saying that the Department for Communities and Local Government has done “no thinking” about how the system will work. “Will the minister explain why not? Does the fact that the department has done no thinking explain why the chancellor did not make the announcement that the minister told me he would?
“The entire financial crisis stemmed from the irresponsible behaviour of the banks, but instead of being open about their response to dealing with it, the government are cutting councils harder and harder while coming up with ever more ingenious ways to try to cover up what they are trying to do.
“By the end of this parliament they will have cut council funding by more than two thirds, with Britain’s poorest communities suffering the biggest cuts. “Unfair funding, council tax hikes and an assault on the quality of life of every community in the country—that is the Tory record on local government funding. It is simply unacceptable.
“I really hope that the minister is in listening mode today, because my goodness, he has had a powerful lesson in the impact of his decisions on communities right across the country.
“I predict that when he responds he will claim that he and the government have protected local government funding, but they have not. “In fact, they have cut £1 in every £3 available to councils as the settlement funding assessment falls by 34 per cent.”
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 3 February 2016, c432WH)