Sajid Javid just plain wrong at #LGAConf17
Taking our seats for Sajid Javid’s keynote speech at the LGA Conference myself and Councillor Hussain, now rather optimistically, hoped for clarification on government plans to fund local government (given it dropped the Local Government Finance Act) to ensure we could carry on caring and supporting our residents. How wrong we were…
Instead we were delivered a lecture which told us we are to blame for the impact of government cuts! There was no acknowledgment of the cuts that continue to be handed down by government which will see local authorities lose 75P of every £1 funding they receive by 2020. There was no mention of local government finance reform, nor was there any mention of the government’s planned reform for business rates.
But worse was to come when the Secretary of State appeared to lay the specific failures of one of the governments flagship councils – as a failure of the sector as a whole.
Looking around us we could see the leaders of Tory councils eyes widen and jaws drop open at this accusation - that we are all facing a crisis of trust. Well as the image below shows, he’d better start facing up to the crisis of trust government ministers are facing as local councillors are considered twice of trustworthy!
Why bring up the trust issue? Why try and spin a narrative that we are failing? Why blame local government for the impact of cuts he and his colleagues have handed down? It’s simple – a crude and baseless exercise in shifting blame.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle Council, and Labour’s local government leader probably summed it up best when he said:
This was a shameless attempt to shift the blame for a decade of Tory cuts onto the very council’s that have suffered most from them.
What we needed was not a political speech, not a focus on blame, but a speech that may not have delivered hope, but one that delivered certainty. Like many things with government right now, the future of local government remains up in the air.
It has been like this for some time, at Slough we accepted long ago that our grant funding would be cut to £0. Its why we have innovated with 50/50 partnerships like SUR which build the schools, houses and leisure facilities we all need and deliver a profit to the council.
Its why we have returned many services back to the council – giving our residents more accountability but also running them more efficiently as the profit element of these contracts is removed.
Its why we continue to bring investment into our town and embark on ambitious and transformational regeneration programmes and back Heathrow expansion.
Its why we enter into markets to give our residents a better deal – such as with our housing companies, and why we continue to build an average of over 100 social homes a year.
We know things have to be done differently to continue providing for our residents, its why are we on this path to self sustainability and providing the services our residents rely on is at the forefront of our minds as we take this journey.
Thanks for reading, and please get in touch.