This week the Police Grant and Local Government Finance settlements were announced. This will be the ninth year of savage cuts targeted at the most in-need areas and yet another exercise from this Government in money being shunted into the affluent Tory heartlands.
These cuts matter. Northumbria Police have lost £83million pounds, more than 1,000 police officers and 200 PCSOs since 2010. The dire state of our police service under the Tories has led to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warning that some forces are so stretched that “the lives of vulnerable people could be at risk”.
The headline of an additional £970million in the Police Grant settlement is misleading as most of this will come from an increase in council taxes.
This ‘extra money’ is also too little and too late to make a real difference. It is just a drop in the ocean of the massive funding gaps for police forces in the country which has left us with the lowest number of police officers in three decades.
Worse still, there remains no clarity at all regarding funding for next year’s police pension bill which will rise to £417million.
Our local authorities who are struggling to fulfil their duties to provide care for the elderly, disabled people and vulnerable children, will also have taken no comfort at all from this week’s announcement.
Council budgets are due to shrink by another six per cent.
The Local Government Association is reporting a £3billion funding gap, yet the Secretary of State came to the despatch box this week with no new money, ideas or plans for the long term sustainability of these core services.
His claim of a 2.8% increase in spending power was typical of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach of this Government, far from being an actual increase it is actually dependent on increasing council tax by the maximum amount, in other words all of us paying more, often for less, not the Government.
Just yesterday the Public Accounts Committee, a cross-party committee of the Commons, reported that local authorities in England have seen their core funding from central Government slashed by nearly 50% since 2010-11.
This decrease in budgets has coincided with an increase in demand for housing and social care services, both of which are in crisis.
Alongside this, Age UK has reported that more than 50,000 older people have died waiting for social care.
This heartbreaking reality is just one of the many dire consequences of enduring Tory austerity led cuts to local government.
A Labour Government would do things differently – making sure that public safety and public services are once again a priority for Government. We would recruit 10,000 more police officers, provide long-term, sustainable funding for local government and end the pay cap that has crippled those working across the public sector, ending the years of unnecessary austerity that have brought our communities to the brink.