Sunday 10 March 2019 / 8:59 AM Andrew Gwynne / Local Government

Labour council leaders write to the Prime Minister criticising the Tories’ unravelling Stronger Towns announcement and calling for more funding in next week’s Spring Statement

Following the Tories announcement on Tuesday 64 Labour council leaders have written to the Prime Minister.

They highlight how this new pot of money is equivalent to just £260m a year at a time when:

“Your Government has cut core funding for councils by almost £16 billion in the last decade, and is cutting £1.3bn from council’s Revenue Support Grant this year alone.”

They also write to highlight Government hypocrisy when deciding council funding:

“We are also confused by the fact that Stronger Towns Fund allocations have been decided using deprivation as a factor, given that your government’s plan to remove deprivation as a factor in deciding council funding.”

The council leaders including some of those representing some of the UK’s biggest cities such as Manchester and Birmingham have called for next week’s Spring Statement to:

“Indicate how your Government intends to immediately close this £3.9 billion funding gap in 2019/20, and make a public commitment to a full assessment of the overall funding needs of local government in the 2019 Spending Review.”

Commenting on the letter Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary, said:

“After eight years of continued austerity under the Tories, many councils have reached breaking point, putting vital services at risk and causing huge damage to communities up and down the country.

“The Government must listen to the warnings of our Local Government leaders and provide the funding we need to avoid a catastrophic collapse in key council services.

“This poultry amount is nothing compared to the billions they’ve cut from local communities and will do little to reverse the damage they have inflicted in each and every region.

“The next Labour government will genuinely end austerity, sustainably fund our councils and put an end to this crisis.”

Full copy of the letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

9 March 2019

On Tuesday your Government announced the creation of the new £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund. After nine years of Tory austerity that have crippled our regions and communities, we would normally have welcomed any new investment, but the way that this announcement has unravelled has served only to highlight your failure to properly address the needs of the towns, cities, and regions we represent.

We are writing to you because it is our responsibility to speak up for our communities. As Prime Minister it is your responsibility to ensure that councils receive the funding they need to avoid collapse.

It quickly emerged that the headline announcement of £1.6 billion was in fact spread over six years, equivalent to just £260m a year. Compared to the cuts that your Government has inflicted on local councils across the country, this new funding announcement is a drop in the ocean – and it is no surprise that the announcement has been greeted with derision.

Your Government has cut core funding for councils by almost £16 billion in the last decade, and is cutting £1.3bn from council’s Revenue Support Grant this year alone. Rather than falling back on gimmicks and sticking plasters, you should be living up to your promise to end austerity in local government, and to clear up the continued uncertainty that local authorities are facing. Councils have no certainty regarding future funding beyond 2020, and with Brexit looming ever closer, councils are still unsure of what the impact will be on their local economies, their workforce, and key services once we leave the European Union.

We are also confused by the fact that Stronger Towns Fund allocations have been decided using deprivation as a factor, given that your government’s plan to remove deprivation as a factor in deciding council funding. This will see poorer communities suffer even more, while rewarding more affluent, typically Tory voting areas. If you recognise the need to consider deprivation for this fund, why are you so determined to press on with your plan to remove it as a consideration in the Fair Funding Review?

After nine years of Conservative austerity in local government, the finances of many councils have reached breaking point. The cross-party Local Government Association has stated that councils are facing a funding gap of £3.1 billion just to maintain services in 2019/20, including:

• £1.03 billion gap in adult social care funding

• £949 million gap in children’s services

• £473 million in public health

• £110 million in tackling homelessness

This funding gap will rise to £7.8 billion by 2025 if no action is taken. It is imperative that you urge the Chancellor to use the Spring Statement to indicate how your Government intends to immediately close this £3.9 billion funding gap in 2019/20, and make a public commitment to a full assessment of the overall funding needs of local government in the 2019 Spending Review.

Our country’s regions and towns deserve better than this ill-thought out announcement, seemingly devised only to generate short term headlines, rather than the long term growth our forgotten regions need to thrive. Our communities should receive the funding they need, with decent public services for all. The Spending Review is your chance to change course, and to act in the nation’s interest. If you will not act then you should stand aside and let a Labour government build a society for the many, not the few.

Given the public interest in this matter we will be publishing this letter.

Yours sincerely,

1. Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council and Leader of the LGA Labour Group

2. Cllr Derek Long, Leader of St Helens

3. Cllr Miles Parkinson, Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council

4. Cllr Danny Thorpe, Leader of Greenwich Council

5. Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council

6. Cllr Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Borough Council

7. Cllr Peter Chowney, Leader of Hastings Council

8. Cllr Rishi Shori, Leader of Bury Council

9. Cllr Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow District Council

10. Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford Council

11. Cllr Linda Thomas, Leader of Bolton Borough

12. Cllr Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council

13. Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Borough

14. Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council

15. Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

16. Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Council

17. Cllr Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council

18. Cllr George Adamson, Leader of Cannock Chase Council

19. Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council

20. Cllr Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston Council

21. Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council

22. Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council

23. Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council

24. Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham Council

25. Cllr Russ Bowden, Leader of Warrington Council

26. Paul Dennett, Mayor of Salford

27. Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council

28. Cllr Alyson Barnes, Leader of Rossendale Council

29. Cllr Peter Edwards, Leader of Exeter Council

30. Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham Council

31. Cllr Shaun Davies, Leader of Telford and Wrekin Council

32. Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster

33. Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader of Stevenage Council

34. Cllr James Swindlehurt, Leader of Slough Council

35. Cllr Samantha Dixon, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

36. Cllr Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Council

37. Cllr David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council

38. Cllr Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth Council

39. Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council

40. Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Borough Council

41. Cllr Jo Lovelock, Leading of Reading Council

42. Cllr Alexander Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Council

43. Cllr Clare Goghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council

44. Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of Hartlepool Council

45. Cllr Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council

46. Cllr Cllr Qadar Zada, Leader of Dudly Council

47. Cllr Eileen Blamire, Leader of Lancaster City Council

48. Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council

49. Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council

50. Cllr Tony Newman, Leader of Croydon Council

51. Cllr David Molyneux, Leader of Wigan Council

52. Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council

53. Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council

54. Cllr Doina Cornell, Leader of Stroud Council

55. Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton Council

56. Cllr Graham Baxter, Leader of North East Derbyshire Council

57. Cllr Philip Glanville, Leader of Hackney

58. Cllr Mohmammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council

59. Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Leader of Enfield Council

60. Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council

61. Cllr Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria Council

62. Cllr Tricia Gilby, Leader of Chesterfield Council

63. Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, Leader of Pendle Council

64. Cllr Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham Council