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THE government must close the £5 billion local authority funding gap by reforming council tax and reinstating grants to avert a collapse in services, MPs say in a report published today.
They warn that the social care system for children and adults is on “verge of collapse” and spending on transport, culture and housing and planning has been cut by more than 40 per cent.
A decade of funding cuts and uncertainty over the financial settlement starting from 2020-21 has left councils unable to plan for the future, the housing, communities and local government committee finds.
The MPs suggest the return of the axed revenue support grant to give extra funding to struggling councils, as well as a review of the “regressive” council tax system to create new tax bands at the top and bottom of the scale.
Unite acting national officer Ian Woodland told the Star: “For 10 years, working-class communities have taken the brunt of swingeing cuts in services, leaving vulnerable families, the disabled and our elderly in massive hardship.
“Cuts aren’t necessary and are being carried out for purely ideological reasons. The government needs to stop slavishly following its failed right-wing neoliberal agenda for what it thinks public services should be and listen to service users who face incredible hardship.”
The call for government to fund councils properly was echoed by public-sector unions Unison and GMB.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Local councils are in a bad way and the blame lies solely at the government’s door.
“The government must give councils resources now and allow them to borrow and raise more income locally so they can start to repair the damage of a decade of austerity.”
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “Local government workers are at breaking point after a decade of vicious Tory cuts. Enough is enough.
“Ministers must listen to the select committee and immediately provide a significant real-terms funding increase.”
Local Government Association chairman Cllr James Jamieson welcomed the report and said that securing the sustainability of local services should be the government’s “top priority.”
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