There was a motion submitted by the Leader of the Labour Group Councillor Bob Scott to Northamptonshire County Council’s Full Council Meeting earlier today:

Councils have lost 60 pence in every pound as a result of austerity. We call on Government to reverse next year’s planned £1.3bn cut to council budgets; to invest this financial year a further £1.35bn in children’s services and a further £1.55bn in adult social care; and to pledge to use the spending review to restore council funding to 2010 levels over the next 4 years.

I seconded the motion, but unfortunately the motion was lost 29 votes to 12 after the Conservative Leader of the Council said his group “will not be supporting this motion” and “we have to spend our money wisely”. All Conservative Councillors voted against the motion apart from four who abstained including interestingly two previous Finance Cabinet portfolio holders.

One current Cabinet Member stated that NCC “was sufficiently funded” and a Conservative back bench councillor said “there is no problem with funding” before conversely going on to say how they were lobbying government for more money.

My speech is below.

This council has made national and international headlines due to its financial position.

Obviously some of that is due to locally taken decisions and failings. But it is also clear that some of that is due to the spending cuts forced on local government across the whole country by the national Government.

The dubious position this council is in therefore gives us a unique position to speak out for all councils, and sound a warning that what’s happened here in Northamptonshire will happen elsewhere very soon if things don’t change.

If it is true that Austerity has ended, then as the Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association, Lord Gary Porter said in response to the recent budget “Councils were at the front of the queue when austerity started, so local services should be at the front of the queue if it is coming to an end.”  [1]

Nationally published figures show government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse had been slashed by 26 per cent over the past five years, while spending on children’s centers dropped by 42 per cent. Other figures show that the number of older people who are not getting the care and support they need from local authorities has hit a record high, with one in seven now living with some level of unmet need – marking a 19 per cent increase since just 2015.  [2]

In Northamptonshire, we understand better than anyone the pressures a reduction of funding puts on vital services, and in Northamptonshire therefore we have a duty to say enough is enough!

The austerity project simply hasn’t worked. It was supposed to eliminate the deficit and reduce the national debt by 2015. Clearly neither of these things have happened, nor do they look like happening any time soon. What has happened however is that homelessness and rough sleeping figures have gone through the rough, the NHS is at breaking point with the Royal College of Nursing, saying only this week that the NHS was going into the busy winter period “on the back foot”.

Public services across the board are being run into the ground and it is local councils that have to try and deal with the mess this causes. We already know that there is a crisis in social care and both nationally and locally children’s services are at full stretch with Roy Perry, the Conservative leader of Hampshire county council, and vice-chair of the LGA’s children and young people board saying, “unless new funding is found, these vital services, which keep children safe from harm and the worst abuses of society, will reach a tipping point.”  [3]

That’s the second Conservative politician I’ve quoted and that’s deliberate. I’m trying to show that while in this chamber we may have party political disagreements about how services are delivered or about individual local policies, when it comes to the big picture, on the national stage, councillors of all political parties are in agreement! Cuts to councils have gone too far and need reversing.

While MPs spend their time shouting abuse at one another across the green benches and vie for position for any leadership challenge or any ministerial changes, it is local councils up and down the country that have to get on with the job of delivering public services, and it is local councils, who seem to be more often than not ignored by their MP colleagues, that recognise the need for adequate funding and realise the damage that is done what it is not there.

Again, I stress that in Northamptonshire we have the eyes of the whole local government sector on us at the moment, and by supporting this motion you will be sending a clear message of support to our council colleagues throughout the entire country how like us are at breaking point.

[1] https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-responds-budget-2018

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/england-council-budget-cuts-government-austerity-social-services-essential-care-safety-a8559486.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/01/children-social-care-services-councils-austerity