Today, Labour launches our local election campaign in Stoke – a timely reminder that local government really is at the heart of local communities. Councils look after the most vulnerable in society and make local spaces greener, cleaner and safer. Yet over the last nine years, this disastrous Tory government has targeted its austerity agenda at the most deprived areas of the country. Meanwhile, the more affluent areas and Conservative-voting areas have – in relative terms – been spared the worst of the cuts. This has all been done under 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 set out to change the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of factoring in deprivation and need when allocating money to councils, 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.
The fact is that between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 that the government provides our communities for services. This has left local services today facing a funding gap of £3.2bn. And by 2025, the gap facing local councils will rise to £7.8bn.
The most deprived areas of the country are being hit particularly hard. Nine of the ten most deprived councils in the country have seen cuts of almost three times the national average cut of £254. Regionally, London and the North East are set to see a cut over five times that of the South East of England, with the North of England is set to see a cut of over three times what the South of England will see.
This really is a crisis of the Tories’ creation, but as ever they are trying to shift the blame on to councils, communities, carers and families. 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 unacceptable. The deterioration of social care alone will fundamentally damage the fabric of our society. Huge amounts of money have been taken out of the system, despite obvious rising demand.
This could be a tough set of elections for us. Amid the Brexit crisis into which the government has plunged our country, people are – understandably – feeling disillusioned with a Westminster political system that appears detached from the reality of their day-to-day lives. So let’s work together to send Theresa May a message: we know the Tories don’t stand up for working people, and we know they are putting prosperity and Britain’s future at risk.
Labour stands up for working-class communities, so this May 2nd, we need to elect as many Labour councillors as possible. This will allow us to do what is necessary: invest and rebuild communities, not continue with deeply damaging cuts in the most deprived areas.