The Inside the Council column with Josh Fenton-Glynn (Labour, Calder)

Josh Fenton-Glynn (Labour, Calder)
Josh Fenton-Glynn (Labour, Calder)

It’s a new year and many of us are making resolutions.

I hope that this year our Government will make a resolution to sort out local government funding.

Long-term plans: Councils need more funding from Government so they can plan for the future.

Long-term plans: Councils need more funding from Government so they can plan for the future.

For councils like Calderdale, our finances are under severe threat after nine years of national Government cuts.

Boris Johnson’s Government may now have five years in office – it’s time to stop messing around and fix this.

Over the past nine years local government has borne the brunt of austerity.

In fact while Westminster’s central Government headcount has increased and taken on more staff, in recent years councils such as Calderdale have been forced to cut a third of their staff due to reduced budgets.

These budgets are increasingly taken up by essential services including social care and children’s services, leaving less for libraries, roads and parks.

Social care would be tricky for any Government; our population is ageing and not everyone is lucky enough to stay healthy in their old age.

But this government has done pitifully little.

In March 2017 we were promised national proposals by on social care by the end of that year.

We are coming up to the third anniversary and we have still not had these proposals.

Any cuts local Governments are forced to make in care will be passed on to the health service.

When Westminster does release some of our essential funding it is often in the form of one year only settlements or one-off competitions where we have to bid against other areas.

That allows central Government to trumpet their largess as they did over the small towns funding announced in November, which parts of Calderdale benefited from.

While this funding is welcome, it’s not a long-term solution and makes planning very difficult.

Asking authorities to compete for funding means there are inevitable losers who invest in a costly process of drawing up plans but do not receive funding.

And ultimately, we also need long-term unrestricted funds that allow us to make more strategic decisions for the future.

So I hope the Prime Minister will make his new year’s resolution to stop taking local government for granted and recognise that people’s day to day lives are badly affected by this short-term thinking about local government funding.

Every day our amazing staff get up and run vital services that people depend on.

They deserve better and so do the people of Calderdale.