Socialist Worker

Councils in crisis as Tories won’t pay up

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2703

Birmingham council workers struck in 2017

Birmingham council workers struck in 2017 (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Vital public services are threatened as the Tory government fails to cough up the cash for local government.

Costs of providing ­services during the pandemic have meant the 343 English councils stand to be £5 billion short of balancing the books this financial year.

The cost of crisis services, including providing protective equipment, financing social care and housing rough sleepers, is worsening the effect of ­austerity on local authorities.

The Tories have given local government £3.2 billion in crisis bailouts—but this isn’t enough.

Councils could be forced to declare themselves ­bankrupt via what are known as Section 144 notices.

Cover

This means that they could be released from the obligation to provide any council services, excluding life-and?limb cover.

A study by industry body the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (Sigoma) looked at the ­pressure faced by local authorities.

It found that a group of just 47 of the authorities faced extra spending of ­£720 ­million over a year.

Stephen Houghton, Sigoma chair and leader of Barnsley council said, “Services may be running now but we will see the effect will come through in six or 12 months’ time. You get to a point where the frequency of waste collection is cut and the time taken to assess vulnerable peoples needs takes longer and so on.”

In Scotland, councils are calling on their government to hand over funding from Westminster.

The British ­government gave Scottish councils £310 million to help pay for services during the pandemic. But the Scottish ­government hasn’t handed it over to local authorities yet, and trade unions are calling for the funding immediately.

Johanna Baxter, head of local government at Scottish Unison, said “The scale of the crises that local authorities are having to deal with—and the impact on their resources—should be ­abundantly clear.”

 


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.