OPINION

Chronic government underfunding leaves councils and residents trying to plug the gap

The dust has settled on the government’s autumn budget and it is clear that the cost of Tory mismanagement will be paid for by residents and communities for many years to come.

At the heart of the problem is a Conservative government that passes the buck and gaslights the country while merrily stating that there are “efficiencies” to be made.

Locally the impact of 12 years of Conservative government has been disastrous. Brighton and Hove City Council has had to make £200 million worth of savings in that time.

This week we introduced our draft budget for 2023-24, outlining the cuts that we will be forced to make as a result of chronic underfunding.

Like local councils across the country, we face a string of challenges – increased demand for our services, record high inflation and cuts to our budget.

At this week’s parliamentary meeting of the Local Government Association – the organisation representing councils – government ministers tried to inform council leaders how councils had been given adequate funding to secure their future.

This rings hollow for councils from Kent to Hampshire which are warning they will go under in the next year unless they receive adequate funding.

In a deeply cynical move, the same ministers – instead of providing funding – have instead been advertising for commissioners to run councils when they anticipate more will go bankrupt because of their cuts.

If more councils do indeed go bankrupt, they will join Liverpool and Croydon which has now had three bankruptcy notices served by government.

Local government grants have been cut 37 per cent in real terms from 2010 to 2020. This is no way to run the country and speaks to the tired and failed government.

Local councils are the safety net for so many people, including children in care, vulnerable adults and the homeless, yet the government does little to show that it values this work.

Sarah McClinton, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, wrote: “The shocking situation is that we have more people requesting help from councils, more older and disabled with complex needs, yet social care capacity has reduced.”

Last month the Care Quality Commission warned of a “tsunami of unmet care” and said that England’s health and social care system was “gridlocked.”

The government’s magical solution when inflation is at 11 per cent? Allow council tax to be increased by an additional 2 per cent, resulting in cities of high affluence being able to generate more income than those councils where poverty is higher.

Although we have a council tax reduction scheme in the city for those on the lowest incomes, it should not be up to councils to fill the gaping holes left by the government.

Food Bank by Chris Reynolds licensed by Creative Commons

Sadly, the council is witnessing first-hand how the cost of living increase is having a hugely damaging impact on our communities.

Hardship funds are oversubscribed, food banks have seen donations drop by over two thirds and they tell us that those previously donating are now looking for help. Meanwhile, rent continues to soar, eating up more disposable income of our residents.

Facing that stark reality, the council stands ready to help where we can. As temperatures have started to drop, we have launched our warm welcome directory on our website which outlines where residents can take part in indoor activities across the city.

This week a leaflet from the council will start arriving in letterboxes of all households across the city, outlining the support that the council can provide from discretionary funds to information on health and wellbeing. Find out more at brighton-hove.gov.uk/cost-living-support.

Despite the challenges we face I am proud to be the leader of this brilliant city. On Thursday (1 December) for the first time, the Red Ribbon flag was flying from council buildings on World AIDs Day and reflected on the 40 years since the city lost our first citizen to AIDS.

This is so important because we still need to do much to reduce stigma around HIV. Treatment for HIV is now very effective so that once diagnosed and on treatment it is impossible to pass on the virus.

Our city is the host to some of the best HIV support, treatment and prevention services in the country thanks to so many community organisations.

Valley Gardens from the air looking south

I was also delighted to see the Valley Gardens project recognised at the Architects’ Journal awards last week.

The park was recognised for improving the public realm for pedestrians and cyclists. Hundreds of plants and 140 new trees are improving biodiversity and air quality – the importance of which, in a time of biodiversity and climate breakdown, cannot be understated.

When ambitious projects such as this are proposed, they often face challenge and resistance. But the positive results speak for themselves. I look forward to the next stage of development for Valley Gardens next year.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Lord green crybaby Reply

    hello and welcome to the city of sanctuary from toilets where the greens will waste as much cash on vanity projects

  2. Mike Beasley Reply

    Nothing to do with the fact that the Greens are a bunch of deluded zealots who continually waste money on their own mindless schemes

  3. Ian McDonnell BSc. Hons. Reply

    What a joker you are Mike …. you are joking … right ??? 🤣👍

  4. Gary fsrner Reply

    The current administration patronises the people of Brighton and Hove claiming that the neglect of the city and the state of our services is not their fault, pointing fingers at central government blaming everyone else for their ineptitude and mismanagement of the city’s finances. We are not that naive.

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