Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/889/22232
£300 million to cushion cuts in Tory councils
Roger Bannister, Unison national executive committee (personal capacity)
Threatened with backbench revolt, the Tory government has produced a £300 million 'transition grant' to partially cover gaping shortfalls in local government over the next two years.
But the recipients will almost exclusively be relatively well-heeled Conservative councils!
Councils like Liverpool, Manchester and Knowsley, that top the list of authorities with the highest poverty, will not get a penny. Neither will poor inner London boroughs like Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Southwark.
Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester and Newcastle will also miss out. The government will instead buy off Tory councils and MPs in their electoral heartlands, such as Surrey, Hampshire and Hertfordshire.
The Tories have hammered local government. Initially in partnership with the Lib Dems, cutting 37% of funding, and now as a rule-alone administration.
Local services have been slashed, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and local government workers have faced cuts to their pay and conditions of service.
These cuts have been so great that the whole future of local government in Britain is at risk, to the extent that even Tory councillors are protesting. The prime minister's own mother recently signed a petition against cuts in Oxfordshire!
The government plans to move towards a model where councils must raise more and more of their money locally by 2020. Income from service charges, council tax and business rates will replace central funding.
Previously, part of local business rates was redistributed nationally. This will end under Tory plans. Wealthy areas will have more resources, and poorer areas with more demand on services will have less.
At the same time, the Tories plan to abolish the 'revenue support grant' - the main component of national funding for councils - by 2020. Only diminishing grants for ring-fenced services like policing and schools will remain. This will totally gut jobs and services.
The Tories can find extra funding for local government when it suits them. They will pay attention to their own disgruntled MPs, but must also be forced to pay attention to working class communities.
Labour councils must abandon their strategy of passing on cuts to their employees and electorates and instead support no-cuts budgets. They can legally buy time by using reserves and borrowing to bridge the gap. This would allow them to organise a major campaign with trade unions and residents to win full funding from central government.
In The Socialist 17 February 2016:
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