On 27th March, there was a debate on the state of Local Government Funding and whether there was enough money given to councils by central government. The discussion allowed us to look at how Government cuts have affected our local towns and cities and what could be done to try and overcome the problems associated with this. The problem of funding in councils is not a recent phenomenon, it has been a systematic killing off of the public sector in this country under a Conservative Government which cares little for the post-industrial towns and cities especially in the north such as Bolton.
Local government funding is absolutely essential to helping Bolton Council deliver services which your hard earned money goes towards via taxes. It helps to fund education in Bolton, especially those who suffer from disabilities; adult social care, and even health within the town. It also helps us with child services such as youth centres, which research from the Department for Education suggests tackle youth crime in the community. However, Conservatives cuts have brought councils all over the country, not just in Bolton, to their knees, even seeing Northamptonshire County Council declaring bankruptcy. Labour councils all over the country are due to see falls in spending of 28% on average, compared with a 19% fall for Conservative local authorities. Councils the country over have raised the Council Tax rate this financial year to help cover these costs, and understandably, this garners criticism from those who pay that tax. This Government is unwilling to accept responsibility for that, and instead allows these Councils to take the political blame.
This is further evidence of politicking by a government that wants to use councils as acceptable collateral damage. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that between 2010 and by 2020, local government funding will have been cut by at least 79%. Councils cannot be expected to deliver the same service they did 10 years ago with cuts such as these. Bolton Council has lost roughly £1 billion spending power since austerity began in 2010
I spoke in the debate about the brilliant and sometimes underappreciated work that Bolton Council does under these appalling conditions. Adult and Children’s Services have been directly impacted as demand for these services remains high, and the inability to fund preventive measures costs the Council far more in the long run. Bolton Council. in the last 3 years alone. has had to find £10 million in savings in adult services, including £8.8 million from Children’s Services. I also praised Bolton Council for being good at investing in the Borough beyond the statutory requirements. By working with capital investment projects, they have been able to brush off some of the effects of hard austerity to invest in leisure facilities and environmental and community projects which will benefit the many, not the few. We have managed to stimulate the market, meaning that the money made from investments can go back into our schools to help our children. Bolton now has the lowest cost of school meals in the country and as well as this, the Council has opened a Children’s Centre in Bolton even though the Conservatives seem intent on killing off children’s services.
It is upsetting when I see local politicians from parties such as the Conservatives, UKIP and Farnworth and Kearsley First being purposely disingenuous by blaming an underfunded Labour-run Council for not fulfilling all of its necessary requirements such as making sure every pothole is filled. Sometimes we have to make the difficult choices between funding essential services and filling a pothole and, every time, I would pick sending our very limited resources towards essential services. There is an anticipated £5 billion black hole in Council budgets and, in light of this, we need to work together to make sure that the effects of these cuts do not further impact people’s lives. The last thing we need is in-fighting when the Conservative Government is the problem, not the councils.