Steve Supports Labour's Fair Funding Campaign(March 05, 2013)
By now I am sure that people in Liverpool are sick of hearing about “cuts”. I know I am. And as difficult and often tiresome as it is, it is important to keep reminding people of the savage nature of the Government’s local government finance settlement.
The £32m budget savings that Mayor Joe Anderson announced earlier this year come on top of the £141m of cuts over the past two years and further cuts of £46m in 2014-15, £35m in 2015-16 and £36m in 2016-17. So remember, whilst Liverpool faces a cut of almost £300 million, David Cameron’s local authority is receiving a 3.1% increase in its funding. Whatever way you look at that, it’s not fair is it?
Even Cameron’s own former ministers and advisors disagree with him. The former Tory LGA chair, Baroness Eaton, has said that Eric Pickles’ understanding of the impact of the cuts on local government is “detached from the reality that councils are dealing with.”
And former local government minister and Tory MP Bob Neill said: “Those in greatest need ultimately bear the burden of paying off the debt.”
The Labour Party are very fortunate. Our Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary is Hilary Benn. Hilary’s recent debates have been superb and he has systematically exposed the flaws in the Tory-led Government’s plan.
And I am pleased today to join Hilary in Labour’s Fair Funding Campaigning for Liverpool.
The Local Government Association says that: “funding for local government is projected to fall by 3.9% in 2013/14 and by a further 8.5% in 2014/15. This means that the grant to local government will fall by 33% in real terms over the current spending review period. Modelling from the local government Association shows a funding gap of £16.5 billion by 2019/20, if reductions in support continue on the current trends.”
Now more than ever, councillors across the country need to know that Labour MPs understand the difficult decisions they are having to make are the fault of an out of touch Government. I believe it is also cowardly. Councillors are the frontline of politics, giving up their time to champion their communities not to implement Cameron’s cuts.
The ten most deprived local authorities in England will lose six times the amount in spending power per head of population compared to the ten least deprived local authorities by 2014/15 compared with 2010/11.
The reality, of course, is that David Cameron and Eric Pickles are living in a world of their own. They simply don’t understand the impact that their decisions on funding are having on services and the local people who use and rely upon them.
Liverpool City Council have been forced to announce 150 redundancies as part of this year’s attempt to save £32 million. Additionally, as reported by the BBC, “Grants to organisations providing social care will be withdrawn and some voluntary groups will lose part or all of their funding under the proposals”.
Consider that this will come amidst an economic backdrop that sees the British economic recovery choked off with just 0.4% growth since Cameron came to office and at a time when the highest number of Brits is earning below £21,000 in over a decade whilst utility, food and fuel prices soar.
Evidently, we already knew cuts were being targeted in an unfair way but Pickles’ Poll Tax – council tax rises for the poorest – is due to come in on the same day in April as a tax cut for millionaires takes effect.
So it’s vital that we continue to stand up for Liverpool and expose the unfairness in the funding settlement. Over the next twelve months, we will see our libraries closing, golf courses closing, children’s services losing funding, sheltered housing wardens will be withdrawn, the council’s Youth and Play Service and the Truancy Watch will be cut.
Think of the long-term effects of these cuts. Educational attainment will suffer, children without access to computers at home will be denied access as their local library closes, homelessness will increase and poverty will steadily rise. After 13 years of real progress, in which Liverpool took strides forward thanks to real investment from a Labour Government, this is a bitter blow.
So I am urging all in Liverpool to sign up to Labour’s Fair Funding Campaign and send a message to the Tories and Liberal Democrats that in Liverpool, enough is enough.