Labour blasts government as report reveals councils selling off assets to plug funding gaps
Labour has hit out at the Government after it emerged local councils have been forced to sell off libraries and playgrounds to tackle funding shortfalls.
A report published by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and HuffPost UK revealed councils have raised £9.1 billion by disposing of community assets.
According to the investigation, local authorities have seen their funding cut by 60% since 2010.
In some cases, money raised by the councils has been used to pay for hundreds of redundancies.
Shadow Communities Secretary Abdrew Gwynne said: “Austerity has hollowed out the heart of our communities. This report reveals the shocking disposal of our community assets under Tories.
“Since 2010, local government has lost 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour government invested in our local communities.
“Cuts have forced many councils to sell off their parks, community centres, libraries, cut back on staff and the neighbourhood and care services that all of us rely on, and push up council tax – just to keep the lights on.”
According to the research, 2016 was a turning point for council spending strategy, with local authorities getting the green light to raise funds from selling land and buildings to finance "ongoing savings".
The analysis showed that one in five councils in England are using the new power to plug their funding gaps.
Birmingham City Council topped the charts of local authority spending at £49 million in capital receipts, with £23 million spent on redundancies.
Khalid Mahmood, MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham told the investigation: “This is an absolutely ridiculous way to do business.
“We should never have been selling the land that we have inherited from our forefathers [...] It just takes the future away from our children and grandchildren to come and that is really devastating.”
The Government has also responded to the Bureau and HuffPost’s exposé, saying local authorities will see a 2.8% cash increase for 2019/20.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £45.1 billion this year – increasing to £46.4 billion next year – to meet the needs of their residents.”
“This coming year local government is getting £1 billion extra in funding - a real terms increase - to strengthen services and support local communities.”