Chancellor Must Seize Opportunity to Help Struggling Councils
With the budget fast approaching the Chancellor has a golden opportunity to end austerity and halt the run-down of vital public services. Local authorities have borne the brunt of austerity over the past few years losing billions of pounds with over 40% of their budgets having been cut. In Gloucester this has led to substantive cuts to City Council services in recent years, resulting in the council being unable to maintain satisfactory services for the people in our city. In the last year the cut has meant that 60 council employees have lost their jobs leaving the council unable to deliver many of its services effectively.
My three priorities for the budget are:
End the cuts to local authorities and fund councils properly to deliver the vital services that local people need and rely on. In Gloucester we have seen grass being left uncut, bins not regularly collected, roads in a poor state and serious cuts in adult social care services. In some cases this really can be a matter of life or death.
End the public sector pay cap and reward our public-sector workers properly. In Gloucester our council staff do a great job in serving our communities but following job losses they are under increasing pressure to do more but with shrinking resources. We must value them properly and provide them with the resources to do their jobs effectively.
Invest much more in social housing provision. We have a serious housing shortage in Gloucester with increasing numbers of people finding themselves homeless, becoming rough sleepers or living in unfit temporary accommodation. Waiting lists are increasing and too many families are at risk of eviction. As my colleague Neil Hampson pointed out at a recent Council meeting there is a serious and increasing housing problem in Gloucester with thousands of people languishing on waiting lists with little or no hope of obtaining a home. The Chancellor must take the vital step of allowing local Councils to borrow directly from the markets to build Council housing for rent.
If the above measures are implemented it will go a long way to halt the decline and allow us to begin to rebuild our public services to make them again the best available and envy of the world as they once were.