St Helens residents being 'mugged' by government blast Labour councillors

St Helens Labour Group claim the provisional settlement will see 5 million cut from the councils 2019-20 services
St Helens Labour Group claim the provisional settlement will see 5 million cut from the councils 2019-20 services
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Labour councillors have accused the government of “mugging” the people of St Helens after it was revealed residents face another council tax hike in 2019.

The draft local government finance settlement, which sets out the annual determination of funding to local government, was published on Tuesday.

It confirms that from April, local authorities will be able to raise tax by 2.99 per cent without having to hold a referendum.

Councils like St Helens that fund social care will also be able to draw upon a 2 per cent adult social care precept, meaning households could see a 4.99 per cent council tax rise.

Police and Crime Commissioners have also been given the green light to increase the police precept to £24.

James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, said core spending power is forecast to increase from £45.1 billion in 2018-19 to £46.4 billion in 2019-20.

The Tory MP for Bexley and Sidcup said this represents a cash-increase of 2.8 per cent.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, he said: “Mr Speaker, there is so much excellent, inspiring work that is underway in our local communities and it is right that we get behind it and have faith in the authorities who, day in, day out, always deliver.

“This settlement and the extra funding announced in the Budget reaffirm that faith.

“Delivering a cash-terms increase of 2.8 per cent and a real-terms increase in spending for local authorities in 2019-20. Delivering extra support for the vulnerable, for quality public services, for our high streets and for local economic growth.

“And paving the way for a fairer, more self-sufficient, more resilient future for local government – and a brighter future for the people and places they serve.”

St Helens Labour Group said the provisional settlement will see £5 million cut from the council’s 2019-20 services.

The group said the settlement will shift £153 million from urban councils like St Helens, to southern counties like Surrey, Dorset and Buckinghamshire.

St Helens Council leader Derek Long said: “This cynical shift of cash to Conservative counties harms our residents and businesses.

“Our pits and factories supported these Tory towns when they needed our help. All we ask is for equal treatment today.

“I’m proud I was the first Labour leader in the country to support a petition to the Minister to call for an end to the austerity cuts that have devastated local councils everywhere.

“With Tory councils going bankrupt and no solution to the funding crisis for adult social care on the horizon, the sooner we have a general election the better.”

Following the announcement, the Local Government Association (LGA) said councils will still face an overall funding gap of £3.2 billion in 2019-20.

Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, said it is “disappointing” the government has not used the settlement to provide further “desperately-needed” resources for councils next year.

Lord Porter said: “Many councils will be forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back or stopped altogether to plug funding gaps.

“We must not forget that it is individuals and communities who feel the impact, whether it is through seeing their local library or leisure centre close, roads deteriorate or support for young people, families and vulnerable adults scaled back.

“It is vital that the government uses the final settlement next month to provide the further resources needed to protect our local services in 2019-20 before ensuring next year’s spending review delivers a truly sustainable funding settlement for local government.”