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Stephen Hepburn MP: Councils can’t go on finding savings

Refuse collection in South Tyneside is just one area which has endured funding cuts.
Refuse collection in South Tyneside is just one area which has endured funding cuts.

Our local councillors are performing miracles by sustaining top quality services on South Tyneside.

The seafront and parks are gorgeous and visitors go away talking about how lovely South Tyneside is.

But if you have any complaints about charges or anything you’d like done which isn’t, blame the people responsible: the Tories.

We’re in the eighth year of brutal cuts imposed by a callous Conservative Government on local authorities.

Funding is slashed for everything from collecting bins and filling potholes to protecting children and caring for the elderly and disabled.

The cash from Whitehall is more than halved. Yes, more than halved. South Tyneside and Gateshead, part of which I represent as MP for the Jarrow parliamentary constituency, are among the hardest hit in the country.

In South Tyneside government funding’s plummeted under the Tories from £117million in 2010-11 £53m this financial year. That’s a whopping 54% reduction. Gateshead’s clobbered by a 52% fall.

No wonder the cross-party Local Government Association is demanding this poisonous austerity must end or more councils will go under.

Parliament’s official spending watchdog’s warning of a catastrophic perfect storm when government grants drop and demand rises to care for the elderly, assist the disabled and protect children.

Town halls can’t keep on finding savings when they don’t exist and spending reserves is a short-term answer with long-term problems when there’s no money left.

Councils are heading towards a funding cliff edge which a number of Conservative authorities, Northamptonshire among them, are toppling over onto the rocks below.

We rely on our councils to provide services and keep places neat and tidy so the Conservative war on neighbourhoods makes my blood boil.

The financial strain on our councils is relentless. They’ve been squeezed for years and would be for more years if, heaven forbid, the Tories remain in power.

I’ve spoken in Parliament and at trade union rallies about the importance of defending vital services.

South Tyneside, like Gateshead, is forced to slash services and shed staff because of Tory spending cuts.

It’s painful, the local government workforce in my constituency is down 37% since 2010.

The Tories don’t care if families can’t find somewhere to live.

The Tories don’t care if the starving are forced to go to Foodbanks.

The Tories don’t care if the sick and disabled are left penniless by cruel benefit sanctions.

And the Tories don’t care if the elderly are abandoned.

I know you care. The lower wages, falling living standards, NHS disasters and council cuts we’ve endured so far are a Conservative choice.

While the Conservative Government is in a Brexit nervous breakdown I fear they’ll lash out, getting nastier.

So we need a fresh start with a Labour Government on your side – standing up for working people, young and old, fit and the disabled.

Labour values the public services we rely on and all the wonderful people – everybody from nurses and teachers to cooks and tradesmen – who work in them.

I’m on your side and I’ll fight for everything we value. South Tyneside deserves better than Tory pain.