The Chancellor gave his Spending Review this week on 25 November. Labour councils had asked him to use the Spending Review to keep his promise to support us to do ‘whatever it takes’ to tackle Covid-19 – but he simply hasn’t delivered.
Coronavirus has cost councils over £11bn this year alone, and the government have so far refunded less than half of that – and this Spending Review has done nothing to fundamentally change the fact that councils will be forced to make severe cuts in 2021 to balance their books.
Despite many reporting that the Chancellor had delayed decisions over tax rises, he actually sneaked in a massive £1bn council tax bombshell. Council tax rises will ‘level down’ – councils in richer areas will raise much more money from a 5% rise than councils in poorer areas, exacerbating inequality.
But perhaps what was most important in the Spending Review was what wasn’t in it. Astonishingly there was no new public health funding despite being in the middle of a pandemic, and nothing to address the stark health inequalities exposed by Covid-19.
Shamefully, there was no pay rise for public sector workers, including the care workers the Chancellor was happy to clap for in photos just months ago. And once again, there was no clear plan on the future of social care and how we pay for it – despite the Prime Minister promising on the steps of Downing Street 16 months ago that he already had a plan that would ‘fix social care’.
A litany of broken promises. Our country deserves better.
Cllr Sue Oliver, Leader of the Labour Group on Bedford Borough Council, said:
"What a slap in the face this Spending Review has been for our Public Sector workers who have literally been putting their lives on the line throughout the pandemic. Their reward (apart from a few rounds of applause): a pay freeze. It’s disgraceful.
"Whatever the Tory rhetoric around this Spending Review, the reality for most of us hasn’t changed. The government has yet again failed to properly fund Local Authorities after assurances at the beginning of the pandemic that they would.
"Coronavirus has cost councils over £11bn this year alone, and the government have refunded less than half of that. After already being been slashed to the bone by a decade of austerity council budgets, including Bedford Borough Council, will now have to find further massive savings to pay for coronavirus while still trying to deliver front line services.
"How kind of the Chancellor to allow Local Authorities to put up their council tax by 5%. It means that councils will once again be blamed for his Government’s failings, while our residents have to foot the bill. It’s another missed opportunity to create a more level playing field."