Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has written to the Prime Minister calling for cuts to local councils to be reversed. Since 2010 Tower Hamlets has had to save £190m due to both government funding cuts and increasing pressure on services. The council has to save a further £39m by 2023.
In the letter the Mayor calls for a reversal of cuts to local government. Since 2010 nationally there has been a 43% fall in funding equating to over £10 billion cut from the Local Government Funding Settlement.
The Mayor points out that with the council seeing a reduction of its workforce by around a third and savings from efficiencies having already been made there is now little room for councils to manoeuvre.
The council is currently setting its budget against a backdrop of a decade of cuts to its own budget from government and increasing demand in areas like Special Educational Needs and Adult Social Care.
The council’s budget proposals invest in these areas to protect the most vulnerable residents but with the Tory government not pledging enough additional money to meet the increased demands it is the council that has to cover the funding gap.
With core funding cut, local councils like Tower Hamlets have increasingly relied on other income like business rates, however through its ‘rebasing’ of business rates the government is proposing to claw back money from councils.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Government can’t simply slash money for local services for a decade and expect there to be no impact. While as a council we have managed our budget well the government has only ever devolved responsibility with strings so our options are limited.
“If austerity really is over then the Prime Minister needs to cut some financial slack for councils who are on the front line.”
Cllr Candida Ronald, Cabinet Member for Resources and the Voluntary Sector, said: “Councils are walking a financial tightrope in local government with this Tory government continuing to cut our budget.
“In areas like social care and Special Education Needs the government has been happy to leave it to councils to pick up the additional cost pressures and while our budget invests in these areas this is not a sustainable funding model for the future.”
- The Mayor’s budget includes proposals for an extra £7.2m for children’s social care and Special Educational Needs and investing a further £12.4m for adult social care.
- New research shows that the ‘Fair Funding review’ – a Government review of council-funding which could take money away from areas of high deprivation like Tower Hamlets and redirect it to Tory shires – could mean that Tower Hamlets loses a further £3.1m on top of the cuts it has already suffered. Meanwhile Hampshire would see a £35m boost, and Surrey would see a £25m boost: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/25/former-red-wall-areas-could-lose-millions-in-council-funding-review
- Full text of the letter sent to the Prime Minister:
Dear Prime Minister
Here in Tower Hamlets our voters decisively rejected another five years of austerity and want to see a government that will invest in the key services they rely on.
Following your election victory you said that you wanted to spread opportunity to every corner of the country.
As a local authority our funding from central government is £148m less in real terms compared to 2010 and we have to make a further £39m of savings by 2023 to balance our budget. Our council has lost around a third of its workforce since 2010 and having already faced a decade of cuts the easier savings have already been made and the choices are becoming much harder.
Nationally, over the past decade, funding for Local Government has fallen by 43% with over £10 billion cut from the Local Government Funding Settlement since 2010. Your manifesto did not set out additional money for local government apart from money for potholes and the provisional local government settlement offered little respite to hard pressed local authorities.
Increasingly, councils see more pressure on statutory services like social care, and we of course still have to fund the essentials like collecting the bins. This means less headroom to provide the non-statutory services such as libraries or youth services, which are part of the local fabric and are vitally important to our residents.
Our borough continues to be one of the fastest growing places in the country, unsurprisingly demand for the vital services the council provides continues to grow.
To meet the demands of continuing growth, and to deliver the services our residents expect, Tower Hamlets needs investment in local authorities.
Your Government has pledged an end to austerity. We urge you to live up to those words and to reverse the cuts to local authorities and to restore funding levels to 2010 levels.
Mayor John Biggs