Tower Hamlets Council today (Wednesday 20th March) voted to support the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign. The national campaign was set up by councillors to oppose the damage that the government’s austerity programme has had on local councils, and to call for the government to properly fund councils.

Since 2010, when austerity was launched by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in coalition, Tower Hamlets Council has seen its funding reduced by £148m – the equivalent of 64%. The council is expected to save a further £44m over the coming three years.

At the Tower Hamlets full council meeting, Mayor John Biggs and Labour councillors attacked the government for their ‘reckless cuts to local councils’ and for putting ‘frontline services at risk’.

Labour councils and councillors have been at the frontline of the fight against Tory cuts since austerity began, and have worked hard to protect residents from the worst effects of austerity, but now too many council budgets are at Breaking Point. Even Tory-run councils are struggling to cope, with Northamptonshire County Council effectively declaring bankruptcy last year.

Nationally, councils now face a further funding gap of £7.8 billion by 2025 just to keep services ‘standing still’ and meeting additional demand.

The Mayor and Labour councillors also warned about the potential impact of the government’s ‘Fair Funding Review’, which will change the way that local councils are funded. Recent analysis from the Local Government Chronicle has found that more than half a billion pounds is likely to be diverted from London boroughs, mainly to shire areas.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Like so many other public services, councils have faced nearly a decade of cut after cut. As well as the essential day-to-day services that councils provide, we are also responsible for vital frontline services such as supporting children at risk, disabled adults and vulnerable older people. Government cuts put frontline services at risk.

“I’m pleased that Tower Hamlets Council is backing the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign. We need to send a message loud and clear that the government’s reckless cuts to local councils must end before they do even more harm.”

Councillor Candida Ronald, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “The Fair Funding Review is dressed up as a ‘fair review’ of how local councils are funded. I fear the truth will prove very similar to the way the Tories have slashed funding for schools, taken millions away from areas like Tower Hamlets and redistributed to the shires. We will oppose any attempt to redistribute our funding elsewhere.

“The Prime Minister might say that austerity is over, but there is no end in sight to the cuts for local government.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Full text of the motion:

Councils at Breaking Point

Proposer: Councillor Candida Ronald

Seconder: Mayor John Biggs

This Council notes that many council budgets are now at Breaking Point. Austerity has caused huge damage to communities up and down the UK, with devastating effects on key public services that protect the most defenceless in society – children at risk, disabled adults and vulnerable older people – and the services we all rely on;

  1. Tory cuts mean councils have lost 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour Government was spending on local government in 2010;
  2. Councils had to spend an extra £800m last year to meet the demand on vital services to protect children by over;
  3. With an ageing population and growing demand adult social care faces a gap of £3.5 billion – with only 14% of council workers now confident that vulnerable local residents are safe and cared for
  4. Government cuts have seen over 500 children’s centres and 475 libraries close, potholes are left unfilled, and 80% of councils workers now say have no confidence in the future of local services
  5. Northamptonshire has already gone bust due to Tory incompetence at both national and local level, and more councils are predicted to collapse without immediate emergency funding
  6. Councils now face a further funding gap of £7.8 billion by 2025 just to keep services ‘standing still’ and meeting additional demand. Even Lord Gary Porter, the Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, has said ‘Councils can no longer be expected to run our vital local services on a shoestring’
  7. Tower Hamlets has lost 64% of its core government funding since 2010 that’s £148 million with a further cut of £44 million over the next three years.
  8. Despite this we have protected frontline services and are investing in a tackling poverty fund.
  9. The Fair Funding Review poses a threat to inner city borough with high levels of deprivation like Tower Hamlets.

This Council notes that Prime Minister Theresa May has also claimed that “austerity is over” despite planning a further £1.3bn of cuts to council budgets.

It notes that we have lost over 200 police officers from the streets of Tower Hamlets and the council has had to step in and invest £3 million to pay for council funded police officers so increasingly there are areas where the council is having to step in.

This Council agrees with the aims of the ‘Breaking Point’ petition signed by Labour councillors across the country, in calling forthe Prime Minister and Chancellor to truly end austerity in local government by:

  1. Reversing cuts to council budgets, with the Local Government Association warning that many popular council services could disappear by 2025 due to a £8bn funding black hole;
  2. Investing £2bn in children’s services and £2bn in adult social care to stop these vital emergency services from collapsing;
  3. Restoring council funding to 2010 levels over the next four years.

This Council resolves to:

  1. Support the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign, recognising the devastating impact that austerity has had on our local community;
  2. Ask the  Mayor to respond to the Government consultation ‘A review of local authorities’ relative needs and resources’ and continue to make the case for Tower Hamlets to be protected against moves by the Government to introduce a so called ‘Fair Funding Review’ which could see funding diverted from areas of high deprivation.

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