Councillors’ unanimous call for government to fund councils properly

At the meeting of the Full Council last Thursday, councillors unanimously agreed with a motion that condemned the Tory government for continuing to fail to fund councils properly following the announcement of the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement just before Christmas.

Speaking about the settlement ahead of the motion, Council Leader and Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, Cllr Mark Hunter, said: “I think it is fair to say that we were not expecting too much, but the reality is that the settlement is worse than we feared. So bad in fact that the all-party Local Government Association immediately convened an emergency special conference – which took place on Tuesday of this week – to discuss a unified response from local government in the face of such chronic underfunding.

“It’s worth noting that the LGA’s own assessment of the funding shortfall is that councils in England face a funding gap of £4billion next year, presenting a serious challenge for every authority in setting a balanced budget.”

Cllr Hunter outlined some of the key challenges Stockport Council faces, including:

• The energy bills for the property estate have more than doubled between 2019/20 and 2023/24;
• The cost of bin collections has risen by 35% from 2019/20 to 2023/25 costing an additional £2.5m per year;
• Meeting Real Living Wage obligations to the social care market and the council’s supply chain will cost an additional £5.8m next year;
• The cost of transporting children with special education needs has nearly tripled between 2019/20 and 2023/24 with an increase of over £4m and expected to rise significantly further next year;
• The cost of supporting children looked after in external placements and foster care has nearly doubled between 2019/20 and 2023/24 costing over £11m more.

Seconding the motion, Cllr Jilly Julian, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Finance said: “The Minister for Local Government, Director for Local Government & DLUHC, Shadow Minister, Local Govt Association – are all in agreement that multi-year settlements are vital. And yet we have been given yet another one year settlement.

“Multi-year settlements would enable so much. Think of the intrinsic and extrinsic value that could be driven by being able to forecast with certainty over a longer period. The continuity. The economies of scale. Think of the difference that could be made to lives in our borough by leveraging that additional value.

“Funding pots to be applied for ad-hoc, being encouraged to plug gaps with reserves, advice being given to sell assets – these are all the minister’s suggested ways to resolve challenges in revenue budgets. Once more for those at the back – that’s one-off money, it is not there to cover recurring spend. If this doesn’t demonstrate that government are simply kicking the issue of financial sustainability for critical, locally delivered services down the road to be a future parliament’s problem, I don’t know what would.”

The wording of the motion read:

“This council meeting notes with concern the indicative Local Government Settlement recently announced by the Conservative Government. Yet again this Conservative Government is planning to pass the buck, meaning that local residents may be burdened with higher Council Tax bills, while at the same time receiving reduced services.”

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