The Government announced this week a new £300m transitional relief fund for local authorities struggling with cuts. However the fund will overwhelmingly help local authorities in Conservative-held areas of the country, who have not borne the brunt of the cuts since 2010 and the Government has been unable to say where this money will come from. There will be nothing for hardest hit areas such as South Tyneside.
This extra cash was announced after a number of Conservative MPs were poised to revolt against this week’s local government finance settlement, in fact 85% of the new £300m two-year fund will go to Tory-run councils, mostly in the southern shires.
The biggest beneficiary will be Surrey, which will get £24m, with Cameron’s county council in Oxfordshire getting an additional £9m over the next two years.
Since 2010, South Tyneside Council and other Labour held Authorities have suffered horrendous cuts to their budget, with the 10 most deprived areas in England being 18 times worse off than the 10 least deprived areas.
This is making it increasingly difficult for Councils to provide services such as social care, children’s centres, health, street cleaning and grass cutting.
The Government has said that by the end of this Parliament, local councils will be able to retain 100% of business rates to make up for the shortfall in the Government grant but they know that this is not a solution and will only serve to increase regional inequality – for example think what would happen to a council such as Redcar where Government negligence allowed a steel plant to close and ceased overnight to pay business rates alongside having to provide support for those who have lost their jobs.
The Government has also said it will introduce a dedicated social care precept of 2% per year, to pay for the crisis in adult social care, yet this will only shift the burden of paying for social care from central to local government.
Experts and others have warned this 2% will still leave a one billion pound hole in local authority adult social care funding by 2020.
The Government is playing dangerous politics with some of the most deprived areas in our country, this week’s settlement has shown once again that their priority is keeping Conservative backbenchers happy and looking after their own, not governing for the whole country.