Councils are fire fighting from budget to budget due to government cuts and changes to the way they are funded.
This was the message from Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox during a debate in Parliament on local government funding yesterday afternoon.
Mrs Cox, who is a member of the Communities and Local Government select committee, was critical about the lack of firm details and future funding plans as well as constant rumours about new responsibilities being delegated to town halls, but with no new funding.
She told MPs and ministers: “When councils simultaneously face rumours about huge new services, such as the attendance allowance or public health, for which they may be expected to take responsibility over the same timeline, they are left with no security in their financial planning.
“The reality is that many councils have very little room left for long-term financial planning. My council tells me that it is firefighting from budget to budget without long-term certainty, and that it will be 2.5% worse off in 2020 than today, compared with national average cuts of about 0.5%.
“That figure does not seem very big, but it is about the size of the entire libraries budget, and let us not forget that it comes on top of incredibly severe cuts over the past four years that mean that Kirklees Council will be spending about 15% less than it spent in 2010.
“I do not believe that anyone becomes a councillor to cut local library services by 32%, to cut children’s music services by 94%, to remove £700,000 from the budget to cut grass or to completely scrap community events and festivals, which is what is happening in Kirklees.
“Many of my constituents are feeling the even sharper end of council cuts to adult social care and other important services. My fear is that the Government wants to blame local councillors.”
Mrs Cox went on to tell MPs that a family living in a £70,000 terraced house in Batley will now be getting £60 less per family member in council services than they did in 2010, but families living in a £2 million home in Oxfordshire will be getting £50 more per family member.
“That seems blatantly unfair, and my constituents struggle to understand it,” she said. “That disparity in core spending power over the course of this Parliament is staggering and seems to be growing. For councillors such as mine in Kirklees, it does not feel like we are all in this together.”
The comments here are taken from a speech in Westminster Hall made yesterday afternoon. Time limits imposed on the debate meant Mrs Cox’s speech was cut short but you can read the full debate here.