On Wednesday (11th March), the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP will deliver his first Budget.
Committed to getting #Brexit done, ‘Levelling up’ and showing the establishment cognoscenti that he’s his own man after the resignation of his mentor and former boss.
Last week (2nd March) in my role as the Cabinet Member of Finance and Corporate Services (hashtag ‘Chancellor of Newham’), I presented a 3-year Budget for the first time in Newham’s recent financial history, designed to provide financial stability, greater transparency, and better service delivery.
Local Government is the unappreciated delivery arm in the provision of public services – we're the part which touches most lives, called upon in times of crisis and often blamed for the inadequacies of other government and public sector agencies.
Your local council is today looking after that vulnerable family in your child's school, providing social care to an elderly relative and of course dealing with your household rubbish.
Last week the Local Government Association (LGA) in its Treasury pre-budget response called upon Government to restore funding to councils. Local authorities have faced severe cuts at the same time they have been trying to support communities and individuals ravaged by Government-imposed austerity and dealing with the challenges of providing adult social care.
The Government might be talking within the Comments pages of the broadsheets about being ‘Brexit oven ready’, ‘Levelling up’ and using other instruments of ‘Government by slogan’, but local councils like Newham are seeking to do something different, more sustainable, and transformative for the longer term.
Newham’s Budget is underpinning our commitment to Community Wealth Building. We are re-considering how we use our limited finances, assets, and resources of influence. We are examining the impact and magnitude of our interventions and what this will mean for our residents and businesses.
Despite losing c.£200m in Government funding cuts since 2010, Newham refuses to be defined by austerity. To be in local government is to seek to improve one’s community not subject to the slow grind reductive nature of reducing Government funding and shrugging one's shoulders.
Saves £36.3 over the next 3 years;
Invests £9.7m into new services; and
Increases council tax by 3.99%.
Improve the youth service by developing 4 new youth zones;
Implement recommendations from the Newham Youth Safety Board;
Improve Safeguarding services;
Transform child and adolescent Mental Health Services;
Improve education, employment, and training of care leavers;
Improve the terms and conditions of our foster carers;
Treble the funding into tackling street-based rough sleeping;
Bring emptying homes back into use; and
Dealing with the Climate Emergency and Newham’s poor air quality.
The Council tax increase represents a £0.77pw increase in the current Band D council tax rate, with monies invested to support our lowest-income households who will pay only 10% of the council tax rate.
Newham is determined not to be defined by austerity, especially when we have some of the highest deprivation, poorest air quality and longest housing waiting lists.
My message to the Government and to my fellow portfolio brethren - “Rishi, be brave, think big thoughts and work with local councils as partners in transforming the nature of what is to be the UK in the foreseeable future”.
There is cross-party support for a redefined relationship with Government. As Cllr James Jamieson (Conservative), Chairman of the LGA puts it -
“With long-term investment, councils can protect local services, improve the lives of their communities and meet the significant ongoing pressures they face both now and in the future.”https://mgov.newham.gov.uk/documents/s135076/Budget%20Report%202020-21%20to%202022-23.pdf https://www.local.gov.uk/local-services-face-almost-ps65-billion-funding-gap-2025-new-lga-analysis