THE Independent Commission on Local Government Finance has said England’s local authorities need ‘urgent devolution of powers, funding and taxes’, and that Public Services like adult social care could ‘collapse’ unless councils get new funding powers.
The report said that councils were on a ‘cliff-edge’ owing to cuts, and services which have been ‘part of everyday life’ for many years ‘may not be there much longer’. Ministers meanwhile were insisting that there was ‘scope for decentralising’ but not for tax rises, meaning that the richer areas had a future while workers’ areas would be allowed to sink without trace.
In fact, the Tory government if re-elected intends to proceed with £50bn more cuts in the next Parliament, with key areas such as children’s and elderly social care, fire services and care in the community to be slashed.
The Commission has decided that some services would ‘struggle to survive if local areas are not given the freedom to determine their own priorities and how they pay for them’. This means that those areas that cannot raise the revenue for these services will see them go under!
The Commission recommended that there should be four new powers for areas that were ready ‘to take on new freedoms now’.
These ‘freedoms’ were more powers for councils over jobs, housing and care; a ‘single budget settlement’ for each area (made up of groups of councils), with money then spent based on ‘local priorities’; freedom for councils to set the number and value of council tax bands; and the scrapping of council tax referendums, which force authorities to hold a public vote if they want to increase tax by more than certain amounts.
Commission chair Darra Singh said that ‘Councils’ success at implementing cuts over the past few years has shielded people from the stark reality that the services they use can’t carry on as they are for much longer.
‘Nowhere is this more evident than with adult social care, which is facing financial crisis with minimal scope for further efficiencies.’
Local government minister Kris Hopkins agreed that, ‘There is certainly scope for decentralising more funding to councils, by extending the successful introduction of incentives like local business rates retention and the New Homes Bonus.
‘Such measures allow councils to increase their revenues – not by higher taxes, but by growing the pot through supporting job creation, construction and enterprise.’
However, councils in the most deprived areas of England have been hardest hit by cuts to their funding, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has revealed.
Its January report found that cuts had not been applied equally since 2010, with local authorities in the poorest areas seeing the biggest reductions.
The MPs warned further cuts could undermine councils’ financial stability and threaten statutory services. They confirmed that Local Authority funding has been savagely cut as part of efforts to tackle the deficit.
The National Audit Office has said that by 2016 local authority funding will have been cut in real terms by 37% since 2010.
Accounts Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP, said: ‘These cuts have not hit all local authorities equally, with reductions ranging between 5% and 40%.
‘Councils with the greatest spending needs – the most deprived authorities – have been receiving the largest reductions.’
With £50bn more cuts in the Tory pipeline, the plan for ‘Freedoms for Councils’ is a plan to return to two UKs, with the rich areas enjoying services while poor areas sink into the mire, with ‘services’ provided by youth conscripted by the government to do community work for under £2 an hour.
Meanwhile, the public sector workforce, of organised union labour is deemed ‘unaffordable’ and doomed to perish!
This is the return to the Victorian England that is so idealised by Tory reactionaries. The truth is that capitalism can no longer afford the Welfare State, so it is to be destroyed! There is only one way it can be saved and that is by carrying out the British socialist