From Daily Mirror: Tory chancellor Philip Hammond is to slash £1.3 billion from frontline council services in the next 12 months.
Lifeline public health services face £96m funding drop as councils are forced to make cuts, Labour warns
From The Independent: Lifeline addiction support, sexual health clinics and stop-smoking services face cuts of £96m this year after “shortsighted and cynical” reductions to council budgets, Labour has claimed.
From Morning Star: Britain is on the brink of “social collapse” after “eight years of uninterrupted austerity” caused by brutal Tory spending cuts, Labour council leaders warned today.
Twenty-six leaders of Labour-controlled councils have signed an open letter calling on the government to “recognise the catastrophic impact” that #austerity has had on local authorities across Britain.
The statement, released under the banner of Councils Against Austerity, says budgets have been squeezed by direct government cuts and other pressures.
Pointing out that the shortage of funding has had a “disastrous knock-on effect” on services, the council leaders said that nearly half of all local authorities nationwide have experienced serious setbacks in their daily operations and increasing numbers are cutting all services to a bare minimum.
The leaders warn that many councils will soon be unable to perform the basic level of service expected of them, with street cleaners, park maintenance workers, library staff and other municipal workers facing an uncertain future.
Tory cuts leave alcohol addiction services at breaking point warns Labour, as figures show record low in treatment
From The Independent: Cuts to council budgets for addiction services have led to lowest number of people receiving treatment for alcohol dependency in a decade despite people in need continuing to grow, data from the Labour Party shows.
Owen Jones writes in the Guardian… According to a report commissioned by the Lloyds Bank Foundation, almost all the reduction in spending on disadvantaged people has been in the most deprived fifth of local authorities in England.
According to Newcastle’s council leader, Nick Forbes, his local authority will lose the equivalent of £268 per household by 2020. In relatively affluent, Tory-held Wokingham, the cut will be just £2. That leaves Newcastle with similar spending power as Wokingham, even though it has four times as many looked-after children and three times as many adults receiving social care. As Forbes puts it to me, if Newcastle wanted to counter the funding collapse by increasing council tax by 1%, it would raise about £1m. The same rise in leafy Surrey might expect to bring in more than £13m.
Take Salford, which is in the top 5% most deprived councils, and where rough sleeping has surged by 600% in the last five years. The causes are clear: cuts to council housing, benefits and council budgets. According to the new report, nearly half of spending on preventing homelessness has gone in favour of a 56% rise in spending on homelessness support.
“Local government is only making ends meet by robbing Peter to pay Paul,” explains the Lloyds Bank Foundation’s policy director, Duncan Shrubsole. “They’re now at a tipping point. If you’re having to cut preventative funding, to stop someone being homeless in the first place, to put more money into crisis – well, you can’t keep doing that.”
From The Guardian: A Conservative MP has said ministers need to urgently “learn the lessons” from the financial collapse of Tory-run Northamptonshire county council if they are to prevent more councils slipping into insolvency.
Andrew Lewer, the MP for Northamptonshire South, said that while mismanagement had fuelled the Northamptonshire crisis, the council was also a victim of underlying financial pressures affecting all local authorities with social care responsibilities.
Lewer’s comments will be seen as a breaking of ranks both with the government and with his six fellow Tory MPs in the county, who have up to now sought to present the council’s problems as unrelated to wider funding issues.
His intervention came as Northamptonshire county councillors prepare to take further steps towards drawing up a drastic cuts plan that they hope will close a £70m black hole in the accounts over the next few months.
From The Guardian: The most high-profile symbol of the cuts in Northamptonshire to date has arguably the county’s 36 libraries, 21 of which the council wants to close or sell. There is popular outrage at this, not least in Northamptonshire’s more well-heeled rural areas, making its Tory MPs nervous. The proposal is being challenged in the courts.
Less well known is that 19 of the 21 libraries under threat host early-years children’s services such as mother-and-baby groups and health visitor sessions. These services were moved into libraries two years ago when an earlier round of cuts closed several SureStart centres. Where these services will go now is unclear.
Northamptonshire’s cuts will be felt in even its leafiest and most prosperous areas. Dig into the council’s cuts plans and you find an axe taken to highways budgets – less pothole filling, winter gritting and traffic light maintenance. The council expects legal challenges to these, too.
Tory-led Northamptonshire county council imposes emergency spending controls for second time in six months
From The Independent: A Conservative-led council has taken the unprecedented action of imposing emergency spending controls for the second time in six months after projecting a budget shortfall of up to £70m.
From The Guardian: When Jill White, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she had three years of treatment, including operations and chemotherapy. It was a stressful enough experience to go through, but White, who is single and doesn’t drive, also faced a four-hour round trip, on a good day, to get to a hospital that was only 13 miles away, because buses from her village of Tatworth, Somerset only run on average every two hours.
“My appointments were often at 9am, so to get to Taunton hospital I would have to leave by 7am,” she says. “And then, even though I would be really tired after treatment, I faced another two-hour trip to get home again. Four hours was a good journey. It could have quite easily been a lot longer.”
White says the service used to be quite good. “When I first moved here 20 years ago, there was a bus every hour, evening, weekend and bank holiday – and they were reasonably punctual. Now they are often 30 minutes late, there are no buses on Sundays or bank holidays – and nothing after 6pm.” White’s situation is far from unique. A report last week by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) found that local authority funding for bus routes in England and Wales has been cut by 45% since 2010 and more than 3,000 routes reduced or scrapped. This prompted the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to raise the bus issue in parliament during last week’s prime minister’s questions, where he promised to “save” the bus industry and give all those aged under 26 free bus travel.
From The Independent: Local councils face a funding gap of £5 billion by 2020 because of “complacent” government ministers’ failure to plan for the future, an influential committee of MPs has warned.
From The Guardian: Campaigners have called for the government to act to help dwindling bus services, as a report showed council funding had almost halved since 2010.
Budgets to subsidise routes were reduced by another £20m last year and 188 services were cut, according to the Campaign for Better Transport.
Its Buses in Crisis report found that squeezed local authorities across England and Wales had taken £182m away from supported bus services over the decade, affecting more than 3,000 bus routes.
Council funding has preserved funding for services, particularly in rural areas, that private firms have deemed unviable, and where no alternative public transport exists, accounting for more than one in five journeys. But most either cut funding – or spent nothing – last year.
From The Guardian: England’s county councils have warned ministers that the “worst is yet come” over cuts to services and that several authorities risk going bust unless steps are taken to shore up budgets.
Only an emergency injection of funds next year to counter a growing financial “black hole” would head off severe cuts to services and potential unrest among MPs, the County Councils Network said.
It said councils faced having to make “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services such as social care, refuse disposal, libraries, Sure Start centres and roads maintenance while putting up Council Tax bills and introducing new charges.
Poorest families ‘being barred from funerals of relatives’ because they can’t afford to pay for them
From The Independent: Some of the UK’s poorest people are being barred from attending the funerals of loved ones as part of council cost-cutting, it has been claimed.
From The Guardian: Analysis shows the financial predicament facing councils across England. Government funding has fallen by nearly 50% since 2010. Combined with increased demand for adult and children’s social care and homelessness services, as well as paying higher national insurance contributions for staff, growing numbers of unitary and county councils are relying on their reserves to balance their budgets.
From Localgov: Government funding cuts have served to undermine years of work by local authorities in tackling youth crime, council chiefs warn.
In 2010/11 Whitehall funding for youth offending teams (YOTs) stood at £145m. By 2017/18 it had been slashed to £72m.
These cuts have been made despite evidence YOTs have been effective at preventing young people from getting involved in crime.
The latest Ministry of Justice figures reveal an 11% rise in offences involving knives or offensive weapons by young people, compared with a 10% reduction for adults since March 2012.
The LGA warned this increase is the result of cuts to YOTs and to the Government’s youth justice grant. This is made worse by funding gaps in other areas, such as children’s services, which are forcing councils to divert money away from preventative measures like YOTs.
From Daily Mirror: Households face the biggest hike in council tax in 14 years with an average bill rise of £81.
From The Guardian: Local authorities in England are teetering on the edge of a financial crisis, with most planning to increase council tax from April while continuing to cut services, a survey has found.
The annual finance survey from the Local Government Information Unit thinktank (LGIU) comes days after Northamptonshire county council became the first town hall in two decades to declare effective bankruptcy. Severe financial pressures had left the council unable deliver a workable budget.
The LGIU warned that the Northamptonshire crisis was potentially the “tip of the iceberg”, with four-fifths of councils concerned about their financial sustainability amid uncertainty over funding and the accelerating costs of social care.
From SWLondoner: Following the austerity measures implemented by the coalition government, funding for the arts was curtailed, and access to music education has become increasingly difficult.
The 2010 comprehensive spending review announced a 30% cut the Arts Council England budget. These cuts placed significant strain on our cultural organisations, including theatres, orchestras, music venues and art galleries.
Our most prestigious institutions, including the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Royal opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, are set to lose £2.5million of Arts Council funding per year between them.
Yet the impacts are more widespread; with cuts to local council budgets, less money is being spent on grassroots music education.
While 85% of parents state that music education is beneficial for their children, 70% say that the cost is prohibitive.
The National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain stated that 70% of its members were privately educated, which underlines that access remains an ongoing challenge.
From The Guardian: Labour MPs have expressed their fury after Tory rebels dropped their objections to council cuts because of a new £300m government fund to ease funding difficulties in mostly wealthy Conservative-run areas.
Greg Clark, the communities secretary, insisted the new cash was not a “political bung” to stop up to 30 Tories revolting against the local government settlement.
However, several Tory MPs openly acknowledged they were persuaded to back the government only after the new “transitional relief” was announced, of which about 83% will go to Conservative councils.
Labour MPs were furious that only 5% of the new relief will be going to areas run by Labour. The rest goes to councils with no overall control, coalition or run by other parties.