A local MP has warned that councils are facing an unprecedented funding crisis, with some in danger of ruin.
Jo Platt used a Commons speech to launch a stinging attack on the government’s austerity programme. All councils have seen huge reductions in grants from Westminister since 2010, and they will be scrapped completely by 2020.
Wigan Council’s partnership approach – dubbed The Deal – has meant that while it has endured some of the most swingeing reductions, the borough has avoided wholesale cuts to vital services and is financially stable. But the Leigh MP spotlit Wigan’s staggering £130m budget squeeze and said many other councils face bankruptcy, with Northampton Council one recent example.
“Our local authorities are facing the biggest funding crisis in living memory,” said Ms Platt. “Since 2010, councils across the country have seen their budgets halved, with Wigan Council seeing the loss of £130m from central government, and a further 30 per cent cut yet to come.
“Our councils simply cannot cope with this financial pressure whilst maintaining their essential services such as social care or housing, let alone other provisions such as roads, libraries and parks.
“The National Audit Office have therefore shockingly concluded that 10 per cent of councils are at risk of effective bankruptcy. With such strain on their finances, where do councils turn? Often they are forced to turn to their reserves. These reserves aren’t, however, pots of money which our local authorities sit on for fun, but sources of emergency funding in times of short term need.
“These are often called upon in times of flooding, cold weather or increased demand, and used to transform council services, but never intended to fund everyday services in the way councils are forced to today.
"Our local authorities are therefore desperate for the funding they deserve, which could tackle our housing crisis, improve social mobility and transform lives. Without it the Conservative Government are failing to create a country that works for everyone.”