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BRITAIN is on the brink of “social collapse” after “eight years of uninterrupted austerity” caused by brutal Tory spending cuts, Labour council leaders warned today.
Twenty-six leaders of Labour-controlled councils have signed an open letter calling on the government to “recognise the catastrophic impact” that austerity has had on local authorities across Britain.
The statement, released under the banner of Councils Against Austerity, says budgets have been squeezed by direct government cuts and other pressures.
Pointing out that the shortage of funding has had a “disastrous knock-on effect” on services, the council leaders said that nearly half of all local authorities nationwide have experienced serious setbacks in their daily operations and increasing numbers are cutting all services to a bare minimum.
The leaders warn that many councils will soon be unable to perform the basic level of service expected of them, with street cleaners, park maintenance workers, library staff and other municipal workers facing an uncertain future.
They also pointed to a “huge increase” in crime, a surge in homelessness and foodbank usage and the overall decline in life expectancy in arguing that Britain is heading for “infrastructural and social collapse” if the current economic model is not abandoned.
The statement, which was orchestrated by Salford Metro Mayor Paul Dennett, coincided with a Local Government Association report predicting that councils across Britain will have lost about 77 per cent of their budget by the 2020 local elections, and councils, such as Northamptonshire, have begun to collapse due to financial stress.
The council leaders call for a “needs-led approach” to funding in local government and for a reversal of the unpopular policy of business rates retention as an alternative to central government funding, which causes a race to the bottom between local government authorities.
They also say that local authorities need more freedom to create and set local taxes and to retain far more local revenue than at present so that they have more discretion in deciding how to deal with specific problems in their localities.
Speaking to the Star, Mr Dennett said that austerity is “an affront to basic human dignity” that must be ended immediately.
“Austerity is a heartless, vicious political option which has had truly appalling effects all across the country, but particularly in working-class cities like Salford," he said.
“In my city, foodbank usage and homelessness are skyrocketing and countless others are kept awake at night wondering how they will make ends meet.
“This statement wants to simply tell Theresa May: ‘Your policies are tearing the country apart.’
“‘Ordinary people need you and your government to drop these harmful and aggressive policies or stand aside and let Labour do the people of this country right instead’.”
The full statement and list of signatories can be viewed at councilsagainstausterity.com.
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