Senior London MP John McDonnell has called on the Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak to abandon misleading rhetoric such as “levelling up”, saying that tomorrow’s Budget speech should be used as an opportunity to “level back”, and put funding to local government back to the levels they were before it was slashed under Conservative austerity measures.
McDonnell, Labour’s shadow Chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, wrote in the i newspaper, “Let’s get real… Since 2010, Conservative governments have taken away over £100billion in funding for local councils. Council funding from government this year is £16billion lower than it was a decade ago.”
In Croydon, our bankrupt council is receiving £58million less in central government funding a year compared with 2015-2016 – a 40 per cent cut.
It is, to a large extent, one of the reasons that the Labour-controlled council is considering plans to slash another £38million from its own operating budget for 2022-2023 – including axing benefits for 20,000 of the borough’s poorest households and removing all funding from Croydon’s voluntary sector.
McDonnell was dismissive of the measures which Sunak and the Treasury have been briefing to the media ahead of the Budget. What McDonnell describes as “extremely limited transport infrastructure funding” and funds for 78 “family hubs” is “peanuts in comparison with what the Tories have cut since 2010.
“It’s also cynical and obvious,” McDonnell wrote.
McDonnell, the MP for Hayes and Harlington, predicts that, ahead of the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow starting next week, this year’s Chancellor’sautumn statement will see “greenwashing… added into the mix and a few more treats will be thrown in with the hope that this provides enough cover for another round of austerity and stealth tax increases”.
He details the 1,300 children’s Surestart centres and hundreds of youth centres and libraries closed by the Tories since 2010.
“In the last three years Council Tax has shot up by 13 per cent, under government direction, to try to cover some of the shortfall. But even with these increases, councils still have less money today than they did a decade ago, while demand has increased for social services and social care.
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer must restore funding to local councils, and not put the burden on hard-pressed Council Tax-payers,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell also advocated investing an additional £30billion per year in transport infrastructure outside the capital. “Real levelling up requires decision-making being made at the local level, so imagine what city region mayors like Andy Burnham in Manchester and Steve Rotheram could do in Liverpool with their share of that, and Jamie Driscoll in the North East? Or in councils like Preston or Blackpool?
“By investing this money, not only will the government level up, but it will help create jobs, and could help tackle climate change or reduce the growing housing crisis.
“If this government is genuinely committed to levelling up then these are the sums required: give councils the £16billion a year necessary to restore services and invest in their communities.”
Read more: Tory austerity has been the cause of thousands of extra deaths
Read more: This is not the time for Chancellor to play games with councils
Read more: Further £38.4m to be sliced from next year’s council budget
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