The Government promised to do whatever was necessary to support councils during the pandemic. Why, then, are they planning to force a rise in council tax, not only breaking their promise, but forcing hard-working people to pay for their broken promises?
Families are already under huge financial pressures as a result of the fallout from covid. Our councils are coming off the back of austerity and have taken the brunt of Tory cuts over the last decade. Central Government cuts have led to council spending power and core funding becoming dependent on income from council tax. Constituencies such as mine have seen around a 33% rise in council tax since the Tories came into power. For some, a 5% council tax rise will add around £100 to their annual bill.
As a councillor for 10 years, I know that one of the biggest pressures on local government spending is adult social care, with councils and the vulnerable people they care for paying the price of the Government’s failure to bring forward their long-promised plan to tackle the social care crisis. We should have seen social care packages and a social care funding settlement, but instead the Prime Minister’s failure to bring forward a plan is putting huge pressure on council budgets and is failing some of the most vulnerable in our society. That is truly sickening when we look at the money that has been wasted during the pandemic on failed test and trace and on procurement from private firms through blatant cronyism.
Such irresponsible choices are nothing new from Conservative Governments. Even before covid, our economy was on shaky ground, with a quarter of UK households going into the crisis with less than £100 in the bank, and 3.6 million people trapped in insecure work. Throughout this crisis, the Chancellor has created problem after problem time and time again. Instead of following the science, he set up a false choice between the economy and public health. That has cost jobs and livelihoods and has left us with the worst recession of any major economy.
Raising council tax now, alongside a cut to universal credit and a pay freeze for key workers, will leave families in the north-east and across the country with less money in their pockets. That is a slap in the face to those who have sacrificed so much during this crisis, and it will hit the poorest hardest. The Government must now live up to their promises. They must scrap this forced council tax rise and stand by their pledge to do whatever is necessary by fully funding our local authorities and protecting our vital services.