Andrew Gwynne MP: Local government can help labour address the crisis in our communities
Labour will end austerity and ensure local services have the sustainable funding they need, writes Andrew Gwynne MP
The legacy of this Government will not only be the mess it has made of Brexit negotiations, but the impact its vindictive policies have had on our local services – leading to higher crime, more poverty and increased homelessness.
For too long, local services and the people that rely on them have been paying the price for Tory mismanagement.
A decade of cuts and austerity inflicted on this country by the Conservatives and their coalition with the Liberal Democrats has stripped our local authorities of the essential funding they need. These cuts have forced our councils to scale back on local services, forced the closure of vital preventative services like Sure Start, and led to the crisis we now see in social care that means 1.4 million older people are without the help and support they need.
The truth is there is nothing necessary about austerity – it is and has always been a political choice, and nothing more than a veil through which the Conservatives are able to beat the welfare state and justify deep cuts to local services, adult social care, and protection for vulnerable children.
While this Government remains in power, we will continue to see the consequences of austerity.
According to a recent report by the TUC, local government funding has been cut by 86% in real terms since 2010 and will face a £25bn funding gap by 2025. Poorer areas are at greater risk of bigger funding shortfalls, with the north-west being one of the hardest hit, followed by the east of England and then Yorkshire and the Humber.
So despite the prime minister’s recent whistle-stop tour of the north, no one is going to be fooled that the Government has had a sudden change of heart. Instead of providing the funding that our towns, cities and villages desperately need, in the past few weeks we have seen cynical attempts from the Government to drum up support in view of a future general election. If the reception the prime minister has received in these towns is anything to go by, it does not appear that they are having much success.
Unfortunately, due to the prorogation of Parliament, I have not yet had an opportunity to raise these issues in the Chamber with the new secretary of state for communities and local government – and as we have yet to be given a date for oral questions, I may have a three-month wait from the time the new secretary of state was appointed before I can challenge him on how he plans to address the crisis in our communities.
This is no way for a modern democracy to function – with scrutiny and debate shut down to allow the prime minister and his extreme wing of the Conservative party to further their own political ambitions and his plans for a kamikaze Brexit with little regard for the damage it will cause to communities across the UK. Along with losing its majority, this Government and our prime minister have lost all credibility.
At this Labour Conference, we will have a clear message for the country – it doesn’t have to be this way. The next Labour government will genuinely end austerity and ensure that our local services have the sustainable funding they need.
We also want to see a new relationship between local and national government, drawing on the expertise and experience of local councillors up and down the country who have been building that fairer, more equal society – despite savage Tory cuts.
Whether on procurement, insourcing, local energy generation, the revitalisation of our local economies or setting up local banks – it is our Labour family that has the wealth of knowledge to deliver the radical policies of tomorrow this country desperately needs.
Andrew Gwynne is Labour MP for Denton & Reddish and shadow communities and local government secretary