GREEN councillors have handed in a letter to Number 10 Downing Street on behalf of all 168 Green councillors callling on the Conservative government to end the destructive cuts to local government.
The letter cited examples of the harm the existing spending cuts were already doing to citizens across the country.
“As Green Party elected representatives, we are writing to urge you to use the Comprehensive Spending Review to ensure that local government services are protected from further damaging cuts, by plugging the core funding gap of £9.5 billion that the Local Government Association says councils face between now and the end of the decade.
“Without such action, there is a very real danger not just to cherished community services, but also to essential frontline services such as support for users of adult social care, older people, disabled people, those with special educational needs, survivors of domestic violence, and low-income families in crisis.
Since 2010-11, core central government funding to local authorities has been cut by 40 per cent, forcing them to make total savings of £20 billion to date, even as their responsibilities have increased and demand for their services has grown, due not least to our ageing population. In the words of the Local Government Association, this amounts to the biggest cuts to council funding in living memory. LGA analysis predicts councils will need to make further savings of £3.3 billion next year, equivalent to 12 per cent of their total budgets.
In some local authorities – and especially those in the most deprived parts of the country – the impact has been so extreme that valued community services such as children’s centres, open spaces and playgrounds, libraries, museums and galleries, youth clubs, sport and leisure facilities, and after-school clubs are now barely functioning.
Indeed, in our own experience, local government as we and our constituents know it is fast disappearing. Yet, according to the National Audit Office, the Government has only a ‘limited understanding’ of the savings that local authorities have had to make, and has failed to properly assess the likely effects of further cuts on essential frontline services for children, the elderly and those with mental health problems.
Furthermore, the impact of this reckless demolition of local government services on the poorest and most disadvantaged of our constituents is exacerbated by punitive central government policies such as the so-called Bedroom Tax, cuts to tax credits and social security benefits, and the rise in VAT.
Kirklees Council has had to make 1,400 staff redundant since 2010, and its current workforce of 7,000 FTE employees is expected to fall to 6,100 by 2017/18
In Warwickshire, cuts of up to 50 per cent to already over-stretched homeless and services for older people and those with mental health problems are already increasing homelessness, and are leaving more people and families in crisis.
Just last week, Oxfordshire County Council decided to end all bus subsidies (so including in your constituency). This is likely to leave many elderly and disabled people severely isolated.
In Bristol, the loss of £255m from the Housing Revenue Account over the next 10 years will wipe out the city’s cross-party approved plan to build desperately-needed council housing.
North Somerset council has cut its youth service entirely.
In Birkenhead, street cleaning and street light repair services have reduced dramatically, feeding increased social isolation and fear of crime, especially amongst the elderly.
This cannot go on. As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government must act to end this unprecedented and ultimately counter-productive erosion of local government. Strong communities require strong local services to support the most vulnerable and those in temporary crisis. It is vital that essential local services are both protected from further cuts and restored to sustainable levels.
The Government also needs to help local authorities realise the massive potential they have to be part of positive responses to climate change. For example, the new duty on local authorities to promote starter homes should guarantee that all new homes will meet high standards in terms of quality, energy conservation, on-site renewable power, accessibility and climate change resilience. And we need to give local authorities the tools they need to ensure that every school, hospital, and public building has the opportunity to power itself by solar panels – creating local jobs, cutting energy bills and reducing carbon emissions.
Cllr Scott Ainslie, Lambeth; Cllr Elise Benjamin, Oxfordshire; Cllr Jonathan Chivers, Warwickshire; Cllr Pat Cleary, Birkenhead; Cllr Andrew Cooper, Kirklees; Cllr Jonathan Essex, Redhill; Cllr Oscar Gillespie, Cambridge; Cllr Simon Grover, St Albans; Cllr Tom Leimdorfer, North Somerset; Cllr Anna McMullen, Bristol; Cllr Rebecca Novell, Lancaster; Caroline Lucas, MP, Brighton Pavilion; Cllr Dick Page, Brighton; Cllr Caroline Russell, Islington; Cllr Rob Telford, Bristol; Cllr Robert Vint, Totnes; Cllr Martin Whybrow, Kent; Cllr Chris Williams, Solihull.
Caroline Lucas MP added:
“Enough is enough. The Government must rethink its callous and counterproductive austerity programme and give local authorities the resources they need to deliver service to the people they work for.”