Category: Local Government Finance

Autumn statement gives nothing for Nottingham’s schools or social care sector

An autumn statement that says nothing on schools or social care is not an autumn statement preparing Nottingham for the future but one that is ignoring the real problems cities like ours face.

The Chancellor has missed the chance to invest in the skills and potential of Nottingham’s young people and has shown no vision to deal with the rising level of demand in adult and child social care that is pushing the City Councils finances to the limit.

The Government’s education funding formula this summer would see Nottingham’s schools lose £22 million in real terms, which is over £500 per pupil. Taking this amount of money away from Nottingham’s schools will result in overcrowded classrooms that are not properly equipped, damaging the life chances of Nottingham’s young people. An autumn statement that was serious about preparing Britain for the future would be giving schools in Nottingham more money so that we can give our young people the skills need in the future job market.

In social care the government has revealed how unaware it is of the biggest challenge Britain is going to face. There is currently a £2 billion funding gap in social care and by not committing any extra funding in the Autumn Statement the Chancellor is making that gap worse. Demand is rising as we become and older population. In 2039, the number of people aged 75 and over will be 9.9 million. A Government preparing for the future should be making the proper funding of social care its number one priority.

Along with this, there is no relief for Council budgets. Since 2010, the Government has taken £200 million from Nottingham, which has resulted in Nottingham people paying more for fewer services. Seven years of cuts to councils like Nottingham has not helped pay down Britain’s debt either, as the Government is set to add an extra £90 billion worth of debt over the life of this Parliament. To add to this the Conservatives are damaging Britain’s economic success and growth is revised down.  

The Conservatives simply have no vision for the country or for Nottingham,  and are not prepared to face the economic challenges that we face.

 

Nottingham Labour approves fire sprinkler works despite governments broken promise on funding

We have approved £8.4 million worth of sprinkler installations and other safety measures in 13 high rise blocks in Nottingham City, despite the government breaking its promise to properly fund “whatever the experts tell us to make people safe”.

Following the tragic events in Grenfell earlier this year, Nottingham City Council worked with Nottingham City Homes, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and local tenants to review all of the high rise blocks in Nottingham. All the blocks have current fire risk assessments and are fully compliant with current regulations. To reassure tenants that all was being done to make their buildings safe though, we took the decision to install sprinklers within the high rise blocks along with improvements to other safety measures.

Council leaders welcomed the promise by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, who committed the government to doing all that was necessary to make people safe. As Housing Portfolio Holder, I wrote to the government asking for the funding for these safety improvements, and was dismayed when the government responded with a categorical no, describing the installation of sprinklers as “additional rather than essential”.

It is simply unbelievable that the Government has backtracked on its commitment to provide support to councils. In the same week as describing fire safety improvements for high rise blocks in Nottingham as additional, the government managed to find £100 million for the installation of sprinklers in the Houses of Parliament. The government again shows it simply has the wrong priorities.

We will go ahead despite the government breaking its promise to provide the funding. They are too important not to go ahead and we have taken the decision to use money from our capital budget. This however, will mean fewer new homes being built in Nottingham, despite the government saying it wants Councils building more and less money available to keep our existing 26,000 homes in good repair.

These are the consequences when government does not fairly fund local authorities.

Councillor Jane Urquhart,
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage.

Conservatives Broke Their Promise on Rail Electrification and Instead Gave a £30 Billion Cheque To London

In the same week the Conservatives broke their promise  by cancelling the electrification of the Midland Mainline, they wrote a £30 billion cheque for Crossrail 2 which will primarily benefit London and the South East.

The government is already unfair in the way it spends money on transport infrastructure. London receives £2,592.68 per head compared to the East Midlands which only receives £218.94 per head. It is clear that their priority is London and not Nottingham. The cost of the electrification of the Midlands Mainline is £700 million. Instead the Conservatives spent £30 billion on the region that already gets the most spent on transport.

This shows the warped priorities the Conservatives have when it comes to spending and the extent to which they not care about the well-being of Nottingham. We will be demanding that the Government changes this unfair situation alongside other Core Cities by lobbying Parliament on Tuesday 12th September.

Conservatives Gave £1 billion To the DUP Instead of Nottingham.

The Conservatives have taken £200 million from Nottingham since 2010. Instead of that money being spent here in Nottingham to create jobs, upgrade our infrastructure and build better communities, the Conservatives have instead used it to ensure the votes of two DUP MPs.

This £1 billion given to the DUP could reinstate every penny of the £200 million that the Conservatives have cut from Nottingham City Council since 2010. This would allow us to build more affordable homes, hire more social workers , repave more roads and increase the number of street  cleaning teams around the City. Instead that money has been used as a political bribe to allow Theresa May to cling onto power.

This shows the warped priorities the Conservatives have when it comes to spending and the extent to which they do not care about the well-being of Nottingham. We will be demanding that the Government changes this unfair situation alongside other Core Cities by lobbying Parliament on Tuesday 12th September.

The £9m Gap

Let us start by defining the problem and with three very significant facts.

First, there have been weekly declarations of black alerts at Nottingham University Hospitals. A black alert is when there are no spare beds at the hospital for incoming emergency cases.

Second, nationally there has been a 40% increase in bed blocking, when people can’t leave hospital for want of care at home, which for the most part is provided by councils.

Third, it costs £2500 to keep a patient in a hospital bed on average, and £450 to care for the same patient at home.

So the logical and practical thing to do would be to increase the amount of cash available to councils. This would allow councils to relieve the pressure on hospitals and effectively to save money.

But this has not happened. Indeed the opposite has been the case. Councils, including Nottingham, have not only had to cater for an ever increasing number of elderly and disabled. They have not only had to find additional money for the minimum wage. But the very budgets we use to pay for services like adult care have been substantially reduced by the very government which is expecting us to do more. So, this year in Nottingham, there is a £10m gap, and this is simply to keep the service going.

This is not just a Nottingham phenomenon, it is happening across England. The Government’s response has been belated this year, as it was last year, and it has been to try and bridge some of the gap by requesting an increase of 3% in the council tax.

I have two things to say about this.

First, this 3% levy will still leave a £7m gap so is inadequate. Second, resorting to council tax rises is unsustainable, especially in poorer areas. Poorer areas have a lower council tax base but a higher demand for adult care. So the council tax rises are far more punitive and far less able to cover the costs than in better off areas.

This means that councils all over the country are left with a problem:  do is they increase the council tax knowing it is unfair, regressive and not fit for purpose and should be funded centrally: or are they  prepared to see a service for the most vulnerable elderly and disabled deteriorate, and bed blocking in hospitals increase further still.

The whole situation reveals a real failure of planning and coordination by central Government.

It took until the last minute for government to realise the problem in 2016 and announce the 2% council tax – a levy which given the magnitude of the problem, is nothing more than a sticking plaster. Far from tackling the problem with a longer term solution, it has simply repeated the exercise with yet another 3% plaster in 2017. This tells me they have no plan. To have no plan when the NHS is in crisis and the crisis was so predictable and when it actually costs more not to provide for council adult service, is a dereliction of duty.

All I can say at this stage is that we in this council will do our utmost to keep the service going. It will be a priority; but will be at the expense of other services and, if we can come to arrangements with the Local Clinical Commissioning group which we will have to, it will be at the expense of other parts the NHS.

But in the end, there has to be a long term solution and that solution has to include more money; and more money means more tax to pay for it. I would start with corporation tax but that is my view.

What is clear is that we can’t go on as a nation with the immature approach we have; that decent key public services can be provided on the back of ever increasing number of efficiencies and we do not have to pay.

In my view we are past the point of relying on efficiencies some time ago. It’s just that government hasn’t realised it and virtually every council, every hospital and thousands of patients are now seeing the consequences.

 

Cllr Graham Chapman

Deputy Leader, Nottingham City Council