It is clear from the tone of the debate so far that Conservative Members have an ideological aversion to local government and local communities making decisions for themselves. The impact of covid-19 leaves a £50 million hole in Manchester City Council’s budget and a £37 million hole in Trafford Council’s budget for 2021-22. Both local authorities, which cover my constituency, are stuck between a rock and a hard place, being forced by the Government to propose increases to council tax in the middle of a pandemic. The savings options being considered by both local authorities will protect frontline services where possible. However, the tough options of cuts and savings are still hard to stomach.
Last week, communities in my constituency were affected by Storm Christoph, with residents being evacuated from their homes because of flood warnings on the River Mersey. The response by Manchester and Trafford local authorities was second to none, and I praise them for their outstanding response. Unfortunately, when the Prime Minister visited the Mersey valley last week, he failed to understand that those outstanding responses by the local authorities involved will become harder in future because of the depth and breadth of the cuts he is proposing. Communities at risk of flooding must not be let down because of inadequate resources. We must not let that happen at any time in the future.
Trafford Council has a funding gap of more than 20% of the size of its revenue budget for next year. It has also spent £50 million more than its £175 million revenue budget for this year. This demonstrates the scale of what local authorities such as Trafford are handling in excess of their usual workload in their response to covid-19, and with income streams falling, the demands on statutory services remain. The council tax hike will hit families in Wythenshawe and Sale East hard, when so many are worried about their future, the future of their jobs and how they will get through the next few months, particularly in a community such as mine, where tens of thousands of jobs are dependent on aviation at Manchester airport. With the Government not having given any specific aviation deal, many families in my constituency remain worried. The Government need to recognise that local government needs to be properly funded and that Manchester and Trafford residents must not be hit with a rise in their council tax bill and deterioration in their services.