30 Nottingham City Councillors have written to Keir Starmer calling on the Party to campaign for cancellation of local authority debt and funding of councils on the basis of local need. This is a welcome step in the face of the government’s refusal to fully fund them for the extra costs associated with dealing with the pandemic and the revenue lost as a result of the lock-down. The Labour Campaign for Council Housing believes that Labour councillors nationally should pick up on the Nottingham initiative and give expression to the same sentiment. Labour needs to mobilise to demand funding sufficient to prevent a new phase of austerity. That’s why we are asking Labour councillors to add their name to the statement below which can be used as a campaigning tool. Labour cannot afford to leave each of their councils to their own devices.
Ben Clay, Chair Labour Campaign for Council Housing, Manchester Labour Councillor
To Keir Starmer/Angela Rayner
National campaign for funding of local government to prevent a new phase of austerity
Dear Keir and Angela
As Labour councillors who are opposed to a new phase of austerity we believe that unless there is a national campaign to press the government to fund local authorities sufficiently then Labour councils will implement cuts which, after 10 years of austerity, will have disastrous social consequences.
If Labour leaves each local authority to its own devices then the very people we should be supporting will suffer the consequences of job and service cuts. Some key workers who have played such a critical role in the pandemic will receive their thanks via redundancy notices and more people whose quality of life is dependent on social services will not receive them.
We therefore strongly believe that Labour should be opposing this new phase of austerity with a national campaign bringing together the Party with Labour councillors, local government (and other) unions and service users, to press the government to:
- Honour its commitment to fund councils fully for the extra costs of dealing with the pandemic, and the losses of revenue resulting from lock-down.
- Cancel local authority debt held by the Public Works Loan Board as an emergency measure which would provide councils with an extra £4.5 billion spending power a year, and help to stabilise their finances. The government itself set a precedent when it cancelled NHS debt.
- Begin urgent discussions on a funding system based on an annual assessment of social needs in each locality.
- Provide £10 billion annual grant to fund building 100,000 council homes a year, which is necessary not only to address the acute housing crisis, but will provide economic stimulus as we come out the pandemic, putting people back to work.
The government has been pressured into a number of U-turns. They can be forced into another one on local authority finances. We must demand the finances necessary to prevent a new phase of austerity in local government.