Local government finances are beyond repair. Every week, councils are announcing budget deficits that they have no chance of balancing. Major councils such as Birmingham are declaring Section 114’s meaning that they cannot meet their legal obligation of a balanced budget. This is not an issue for just one party. Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Independent, all councils are struggling. City councils or County and Borough councils, the issue of local government finance is affecting the whole country.
There are many reasons for this, spiralling costs in energy, high inflation, wage rises, that while deserved stretch already threadbare budgets. Costs in adult social care are soaring as people live for much longer. These are all increasing the pressure on councils but- there’s one reason why all councils are struggling, one central issue that is hurting us all, and that is the Conservative central government.
For over a decade the Tory government have massively underfunded local government, all the while moving responsibility to Local Authorities without increasing funding. Government funding represented over 55 per cent per cent of council’s core spending power in 2013-14 now it represents just 37 per cent per cent in 2023-24. Levelling-up has been a failure, leading to councils fighting over scraps of funding. Councils have had to scrimp and save, salami slicing budgets to make ends meet. Now, up and down the country, councils have nothing left to cut, only the bones remain, and the situation has become untenable.
Everyone knows that the Tories aren’t going to do anything about this. They’re more interested in making up policies about meat taxes, and 7 bins. They’re more interested in demonising migration, scrapping infrastructure projects and running Britain into the ground.
Labour though, are a government in waiting. They understand the crisis that is being faced, and that Local Authorities need more support now than ever before. Currently the Labour Party conference is taking place. It is the perfect time for the Labour Party to commit to funding councils sustainably, to stopping the decay of the years of Tory government, and to change the course that many councils are one.
SIGOMA, a body representing 47 Local Authorities has written to Deputy Leader Angela Raynor, urging that Labour “provide some much-needed reassurance and optimism by going further and committing to reforming the funding model at this week’s Labour Party Conference.” SIGOMA is lobbying for a fairer system of Local Government funding, one that is fit for purpose.
Nottingham Labour are proud that Nottingham City Council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Audra Wynter has co-signed the SIGOMA letter, stating our support for their aims.
Nottingham is struggling, for too long we have been underfunded. We have protected services despite this- we have maintained CPO’s and kept libraries open. Just last year we protected our Welfare Rights service so that the most vulnerable people are supported. We brought Nottingham City Homes back in house to improve the service. We are standing by the people of Nottingham. We are standing by even as the government turns it back. We cannot do this forever though, we cannot do this if demand keeps increasing, if funding continually falls and if inflation continues to rise.
A new funding system, a fairer funding system is needed, and Nottingham Labour supports the calls of SIGOMA and so many other councils, MP’s, individuals and organisations to demand change to the system now.