South Tyneside Council chief takes hatchet to Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget

The Labour leader of South Tyneside Council has said the Government’s Budget will ‘do little' to help struggling families in the borough.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:05 pm

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged a major increase in public spending amid higher than expected economic growth as he set out the Government’s spending plans for the next year in the House of Commons.

He announced extra money for schools, tax cuts for businesses, cancelled a planned rise in fuel duty and, amid huge concern over axing the £20 Universal Credit uplift, said changes will be made to let working claimants keep more of their benefits

But South Tyneside Council leader Cllr Tracey Dixon remains unconvinced the finance bill would help people in the borough.

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South Tyneside Council leader Tracey Dixon has responded to the budget.

“The rising cost of living is the biggest issue facing our residents and aside from the headlines and slogans the Chancellor’s budget does little to address these concerns,” she said.

“The Government has opted for changes to the Universal Credit taper instead of retaining the £20 uplift. While I welcome any support for working families it still does not go nearly far enough to address the significant pressures that people are faced with.

“Businesses keen to see an overhaul of the outdated business rates model are instead given sector-driven rate relief. And while of course I welcome the significant difference this will make to our hospitality sector it just kicks the wider issue into the long grass.”

Cllr Dixon also dismissed references in the Chancellor’s budget speech to ‘world-class public services’, pointing out it was council-run services which most people interacted with day-to-day, and local authorities continued to face ‘chronic underfunding’.

“Some of the measures or apparent increases in funding simply replace a fraction of what has already been cut over the last decade," she said.

However, Cllr Dixon was not entirely without praise for the budget.

"In South Tyneside we have shaped and innovated to protect those services which are most important to our residents and that is why I was glad that the Chancellor recognised the importance of early years investment,” she said.

"We identified early on the need to provide for our children in order to give them the best start in life – protecting services as much as we could.

"We still have 12 nurseries and 12 children’s centres making us increasingly unique in our investment in early years.

“We have targeted our investment where we need it most but with increasing pressures in adults and children’s social care the Government must to address the chronic underfunding of local government.”

However, Cllr Dixon said recent health and social care proposals did not address adult social care need.

"The Adult Social Care levy simply adds an additional burden to those already struggling,” she said.

"A fairer funding system underpinned by sufficient resources is the only way to ensure the burden of caring for our most vulnerable does not fall on the shoulders of those least able to help.

“The fair funding review, launched six years ago, is yet to come to fruition while our residents bear the strain of over a decade of austerity.”

Cllr Dixon also said the present system of Government funding to councils did not reflect the fact that in South Tyneside over 65% of homes fall into the lowest tax band compared to less than 1% in some London boroughs.

She said means that councils such as South Tyneside are unable to raise significant resources from council tax compared to other parts of the country with much higher property values.

She added: “A long term funding strategy for local government needs to be a priority for the government with funding for statutory services such as social care based upon need and ability to raise money locally.

“We need to see levelling up in regional and local spend. Not just one off projects and repeats of previously announced commitments .

"We have been successful to date in attracting additional funding from individual streams and whilst we welcome the chance to bid for Levelling Up funding to support transformational regeneration schemes, true levelling up must start with addressing health and social inequalities which have been exacerbated by 10 years of austerity.

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