Tories using councils as 'human shields' for spending cuts, claims John McDonnell
The Government are using councils as “human shields” for spending cuts, John McDonnell will say today.
The Shadow Chancellor’s attack comes as a new survey suggests almost all of England’s local authorities are preparing to hike council tax by up to 6% as they find their budgets squeezed.
Charges are set to go up in 95% of councils, according to the 2018 State of Local Government Finance research.
The Local Government Association has said councils face an overal budget shortfall of £5.8bn by the end of this decade.
At a speech in Preston later, Mr McDonnell will say councils have borne the brunt of a “failed austerity agenda”.
He will point to the plight of Surrey County Council, which covers the constituencies of 11 Conservative MPs, including Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, Michael Gove and Chris Grayling.
An investigation by Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed the authority is facing a £100m funding shortfall, equivalent to 12.8% of its annual budget.
Mr McDonnell will say: "Today we learn that the Chancellor's own local council is on the brink of going bust due to the last eight years of failed Tory austerity, which has meant the slashing to the bone of local government budgets in order for Philip Hammond to pretend he is on course to reach targets that the government then fails hopelessly to meet.
"If you ever wanted to see the utter failure of this government look no further than your local council. As many are struggling to maintain many basic services because they are being forced to pass on Tory cuts.
"There needs to be an urgent change of direction in local government funding in this country. We need to see an end to a situation whereby Tory governments are using local councils like human shields as they continue to drive ahead with their failed austerity agenda."
The Shadow Chancellor will also use the speech to outline plans for a drive to help councils bring public services in-house and boost local economies.