Labour councils: devastating services

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special

Following the local elections on 4 May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated: ‘Labour councils and Labour mayors are putting families and pensioners first. Those who need help most can rely on us.’ This was a lie: Corbyn was covering up for the Labour councils which have slashed services and jobs while refusing to lead a fight against austerity. Labour bears responsibility for the devastation of local services all over Britain.

Between 2010 and 2015, central government funding to local authorities was cut by 37% in real terms and by 2020 the only sources of council income will be council tax and local business rates.

As a consequence:

  • Neighbourhood services such as highways and transport, cultural services, environmental services and planning have been cut by £3bn since 2011.
  • The gap in social care funding will be £2.1bn by 2019/20 despite the council social care precept.
  • The most deprived councils are Labour-run and have seen their income fall furthest. Labour has faithfully passed on these cuts to working class people. In London:
  • Islington council, which includes Corbyn’s constituency, has cut £21.4m from its 2017/18 budget, on top of £170m of cuts since 2010.
  • Southwark council has cut £25.6m from its 2017/18 budget, asking the NHS to take over provision of specialist equipment such as wheelchairs, stair lifts, hoists and wetrooms, and merging two day-care centres, threatening 45 jobs. It slashed youth service funding by 73% in 2016/17.
  • Lambeth council sets out cuts of £46.5m in its financial planning report for 2016/17-2019/20, including cutting 92 beds from hostel services.
  • Lewisham council will cut its budget by £32.6m between 2017 and 2019.

All over England:

  • The Newcastle council budget for 2017-2020 includes cuts of £70m making a total of £291m cut between 2010 and 2020. The 2016/17 budget terminated all funding for non-statutory mental health services, the mental health recovery team, and childcare services for homeless people.
  • Sunderland council has cut all funding for domestic violence services.
  • Manchester City council has cut £340m since 2010.
  • Nottingham has cut £200m since 2010/11, projecting further cuts of £46m by 2020.
  • Birmingham City council plans cuts of £250m for 2015-19. Since 2010, cuts have included £25m from Supporting People funding and £28m from the Adult Social Care budget.
  • Wirral has closed Lyndale special needs school which catered for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and Girtrell Court respite home, crucial for families with seriously disabled children.

In Scotland:

  • Edinburgh council, run by an SNP-Labour coalition, is cutting £27.1m in 2017, on top of £150m of cuts since 2012. 1,400 council jobs were cut in the last year.
  • Glasgow council’s budget for 2017/18 includes £53m of cuts, with social care cuts of £14m.

Labour council leaders who are presiding over this austerity rake in exorbitant expenses:

  • The Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales received over £81,000 in allowances in 2015 – putting him in the top 5% of earners nationally.
  • Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock received £77,000 in 2015.
  • Southwark Council leader Peter John OBE is on £60,000.

Labour leaders like Wales, Bullock, and John have been given knighthoods and OBEs by doing whatever is necessary to conform to central government instructions. They are self-serving reactionaries and Corbyn will not criticise them.

Labour’s manifesto offers no promises about changing the Tory funding arrangements or reversing any of the central government funding cuts. It talks of devolving power ‘with the necessary funding’, without specifying what this is. It promises to ‘end’ cuts to youth services, but not to reverse them. It states that 1,200 Sure Start centres have been lost under the Tories – but Labour will merely ‘ensure no more centres close’. Libraries will be ‘preserved for future generations’ – a promise which means little without substantial extra money. This does not represent a ‘fairer, more prosperous society for the many’.