At the Cheshire East Council meeting on Thursday afternoon a motion proposed by the Labour Group was adopted, after several Conservative Councillors defied their leadership to vote in favour of a motion to halt eight years of austerity.
The motion that was adopted reads:
This Council resolves to ask the Leader of the Council to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government setting out the funding pressures faced by our local council.
Sam Corcoran, Leader of the Labour Group on Cheshire East Council, who formally proposed the motion said: ‘It was fantastic to see councillors from all political parties voting for this motion. We have sent a strong signal to this Conservative Government that council finances are under huge pressure. It was noticeable that those voting for this motion included the Conservative Cabinet Members responsible for Children’s Services and Adult Social Care; these two areas are under severe pressure due to government cuts. The Conservative Leader seems oblivious to the financial problems councils are facing in looking after children and vulnerable adults.’
Full Council model motion: Breaking Point campaign
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, like clean streets, libraries, and children’s centres;
- Tory cuts mean councils have lost 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour Government was spending on local government in 2010;
- Councils had to spend an extra £800m last year to meet the demand on vital services to protect children by over;
- With an aging 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
- Government cuts have seen over 500 children’s centres and 475 libraries close, potholes are left unfilled, and 80% of councils’ workers now say they have no confidence in the future of local services
- 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
- 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’
This Council condemns Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss for stating on BBC Newsnight on 1st October 2018 that the government is “not making cuts to local authorities”, when all independent assessments of government spending show that this is entirely false; and that this Council further notes that Prime Minister Theresa May has also claimed that “austerity is over” despite planning a further £1.3bn of cuts to council budgets over the next year;
This Council agrees with the aims of the ‘Breaking Point’ petition signed by Labour councillors across the country, in calling for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to truly end austerity in local government by:
- Using the Budget to reverse next years planned £1.3bn cut to council budgets;
- Immediately investing £2bn in children’s services and £2bn in adult social care to stop these vital emergency services from collapsing;
- Pledging to use the Spending Review to restore council funding to 2010 levels over the next four years
This Council resolves to:
- Support the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign, recognising the devastating impact that austerity has had on our local community
- Ask the Leader of the Council to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government setting out the funding pressures faced by our local council, and calling on the Government to truly end austerity in local government
SPEECH BY CLLR SAM CORCORAN 18/10/2018
A few years ago I made a plea for clarity from central government over what funding Cheshire East Council would receive in the future and a senior officer drily replied in a few years time Cheshire East will get nothing at all – how much more certainty do you want?
Well Cheshire East Council will be receiving NO government Revenue Support Grant. You may think that means that central government can’t take any more away from us, but you’d be wrong – tweaks to New Home Bonus or business rates retention could have a significant financial impact on Cheshire East Council.
This Breaking Point Motion IS relevant to Cheshire East Council even though we already know we won’t be receiving any government Revenue Support Grant in the near future.
The motion quotes a figure of £1.3bn planned cuts to council budgets – just to put that in context. There has been much talk of efficiency savings by Councils. Well yes we can make efficiencies- we have spent over £1M on the senior officer disciplinary process and suspensions. I hope we won’t be spending anything like that figure next year. But to put it in context, a 6% council tax rise raises over £10M and our share of the £1.3bn is millions of pounds.
The point I am making here is that although we could quite rightly talk about waste and misspending in Cheshire East Council, there are times when we need to step back and look at the bigger picture. That’s what this motion is about.
The bigger picture is that government funding of local authorities has been cut heavily already and is being cut further and we have increased demand for our services – particularly Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. Adult Social Care costs are forecast to rise above inflation year on year for the foreseeable future. In Cheshire East we know we have an ageing population. How will those extra costs be divided between local and central government – between social care and the NHS? Measures like the Better Care Fund are not on their own going to solve the looming care funding problem.
The cost of Children’s Services has risen partly due to a sharp rise in the number of children in care – Cheshire East is not alone in this. Government decisions are at least partly to blame for this increase. I believe that families are the best place for children to be brought up and unless we support families then more children will need to be taken into care – increasing costs for local authorities.
So in summary central government policies are increasing demand for Council services and so increasing costs for councils. At the same time central government is cutting funding to councils.
The result is most dramatically seen in Northamptonshire where the Council collapsed. Now I am not suggesting that we will go bust. Cheshire East is a wealthy borough and has not been hit as hard as some councils. A few years ago I looked at the total cuts in funding to Cheshire East compared to other councils and we had lost 3% of our funding compared to 30% in Liverpool. So it’s not surprising that we are in a better position than many council, but it is entirely false for Liz Truss to say that the government is not making cuts to local authorities. Our government Revenue Support Grant is being cut completely.
Yes this is a Labour motion, but please do take a moment to read what the resolution on page 88 actually says. Gary Porter the Conservative Chair of the LGA has made very similar calls to central government. Are you going to stand up for Cheshire East residents and demand an end to austerity in local government or are you going to play party politics. I look forward to an interesting debate.