In an email sent to Labour members this evening, City Mayor, Paul Dennett hit out at the conservatives, pointing the finger of blame solely on them for the council having to shave another £11.2m from the Cities spending whilst making huge cuts to services. No matter which way you look at it, over the last 8 years Salford has had £198m stripped away from its coffers, that is a staggeringly large amount of money and a huge black hole to have to fill.
I am writing to you in light of our recent announcements regarding Salford City Council’s budget proposals for 2018/19.
We are entering our 8th year of government-imposed austerity, and this year’s cuts mean we have lost over 50% of our budget (£198m) since 2010 and almost half our staff since the Tories took office. This shockingly equates to £60,000 per day being lost from our budget.
By the government’s own definition, Salford is the 22nd most deprived Local Authority in the United Kingdom according to their own Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). Historically, we have high rates of educational under-attainment (predominantly within our secondary school's estate), child poverty, unemployment, residents seeking support with accommodation, low wages and poor health. The result of government cuts is that many of our services are literally at breaking point.
And yet, despite presenting with far higher need than the Shires, Salford and many other Labour authorities are treated the same when it comes to calculating local government spend. The Newcastle Council ‘heat-map’ of cuts from 2015 showed that in that year, Labour authorities up and down the country were disproportionately hit by the burden of austerity and local government cuts whilst some Tory shires – notably Tewkesbury – had actually increased their spending power.
After the Tory council of Surrey (the wealthiest county in England) was gifted a cash sum after struggling to balance the books, I contacted Ministers demanding a review of central government funding for local authorities. Salford Council is now involved directly in the government’s Fair Funding review, and we will fight for an equitable and needs-based approach to local authority spending.
43% of our current budget is spent on Adult and Children’s Services (excluding schools)... which means that before we even start cleaning the streets, emptying the bins, supporting local businesses, we are providing emergency care to elderly residents in their homes - providing essential social care support work to individuals and communities with severe disabilities and complex needs, providing foster places for children who cannot live with their families and providing emergency financial support for those on the brink of homelessness.
And the government continues to lumber us with further expenses, which it continually fails to resource. The Homelessness Reduction Act has legally obliged us to provide services, some of which have only been cut since 2010, whilst providing us with a fraction of the funding needed to do so.
And the Children and Families Act has introduced entirely new cost pressures for which no funding whatsoever has been allocated.
When the Grenfell disaster claimed the lives of 71 people in London, government burdened Local authorities up and down the country with financing the re-cladding of blocks made unsafe by the inadequacy of central government building regulations and to date they have not provided a single penny of support. The city council has had to finance a loan of £25m to cover the costs.
And this year, the council is to find another £11.2m to take from its budget. With the NHS in a financial crisis, homelessness soaring and social care in meltdown, any cuts made from this point will only further act to impede our ability to deal with rising demand for services in the future, whilst forcing us to choose between equally valuable services.
Given my legal obligation as City Mayor to provide a ‘balanced’ budget for the city council, it is my grave responsibility to preside over the 8th year of Tory imposed austerity. As a lifelong socialist and Trade Unionist, this is a grim task – but one which I will endeavour to fulfil in the best interests of this city and its people.
But though times are hard, the outlook is not all bleak. With the Tories in a state of collapse, the prospect of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn has not been closer in almost a decade. And Salford is a fighting council, determined to expose the devastating impacts that Tory austerity is having on the lives of residents up and down this country.
As Labour Party members, you are at the forefront of the fight to protect services, jobs and communities in our great city.
Over the coming months, I will endeavour to reach out to as many of you as possible to fully explain the decision-making process behind this year’s budgeting decisions, ensuring that no stone has been left unturned in the battle for the best possible settlement for the people of Salford.
The council’s recent press release on our budget process can be found here: https://www.salford.gov.uk/your-council/news/112m-reduction-in-budget-announced-by-salford-city-council/
A link to the budget ‘tracker’ can also be found by following the link at the end of the article.
Sadly these words will come as little comfort to those looking at the prospects of soon joining the ranks of the unemployed or those who will struggle to find alternative and affordable childcare.