CROYDON COMMENTARY: Recently published reports which prove that Tory austerity has led to the early deaths of tens of thousands of people since 2010 need to be properly considered in next week’s Budget and in the forthcoming Government Spending Review, writes ANDREW PELLING
The Government Spending Review comes soon, with the Budget on October 27.
Let’s hope it’s a three-year review which helps councils to plan ahead. There have only been one-year reviews recently.
With the NHS and school budgets protected and more money likely to be allocated to defence, I fear that local government, like other non-protected budgets, is likely to see grants falling by another 3 to 5 per cent.
But the government needs to stop playing games by hurting local councils’ budgets, which proves to be destructive to people’s lives. Council Tax rates are also becoming untenable.
You see dramatic figures used of the cuts to local government grant of 76 per cent in Croydon. This is accurate but can mislead, as government has changed income flows to local councils. Like other councils, Croydon’s real spend per head per year is about 20 per cent down since the Tories came to power nationallyin 2010.
That in itself is a huge cut to cope with each and every year.
There are still savings to be found in a forensic consideration of the council’s private sector contracts.
When Council Tax benefit is run by councils (with less funding for this as well from central government) and when social care is secured by councils, it’s often the most needy groups that suffer most.
Croydon’s treatment by governments of all three colours has been poor bearing in mind its growing demographic challenges. Some of that problem goes a long way back, with grant support being based on historical spend that the Conservatives kept down in the 1980s.
As government grants fall anyway, attention has to turn to how to maximise income. This includes development and working with private sector partners to identify investment that will no longer be coming from the council’s “39 steps” of infrastructure investment.
Monies can be secured from Croydon’s outperforming Pension Fund without having any impact on payments to Croydon Council’s fund’s pensioners.
With the government’s White Paper on “levelling up” due soon and Tory support in London in retreat, I fear that London councils might get worse financial treatment than other councils.
- Andrew Pelling, pictured right, has been a Labour councillor for Waddon ward since 2014. Previously a Conservative, Pelling was Croydon and Sutton’s first London Assembly Member and he was the MP for Croydon Central from 2005 to 2010. Pelling is the current chair of the council’s pensions committee
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