Council Leader calls for Royal Commission on Local Government Finance

The culmination of many months’ work, last night’s meeting of Stockport Council saw the Council Budget set for the year ahead, managing an £11m deficit, caused by continued underfunding of local authorities by the Conservative government and which has resulted in many councils declaring effective bankruptcy.

Speaking after the meeting, and repeating the call he made in answer to a public question. Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Council and of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, said: “Local government is facing a bleak financial future. I genuinely fear winter is coming, the system is broken. Councils are simply not being resourced to provide the services that residents are demanding. This is not just my view, but the view of the all-party Local Government Association, who say there is a shortfall of £4bn for council in England over the next two financial years.

“Stockport has a long and proud record of sound financial management and the prudent use of resources developed over many years, with strong pre-decision scrutiny and a willingness to take the tough decisions when they are needed. Yet we will face a budget meeting next year where a further deficit of some £20m will need to be managed. Council Tax payers will be asked to pay more and more whilst the universal services have to be cut back so that we can afford to pay for Adult and Children’s Social Care.

“How is it right that Council Tax payers locally carry all the risk for funding Social Care? Why does this burden fall onto a regressive form of taxation rather than being funded centrally out of general taxation, where those who earn the most also pay the most? This model works for schools and it works for the NHS, so why not for Social Care?

“I am therefore calling on the government to establish a Royal Commission to explore fully the current state of Local Government finances across the board and for them to come up with recommendations as to how the system might be improved, before even more local councils are forced into bankruptcy. It is time for a fundamental reset.”

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