27 November 2020
The Chancellor’s wilful disregard of the essential work councils do means this Government has once again let down communities up and down the country, including Shropshire.
For real change, the Chancellor should have restored council funding to sustainable levels, fulfilled the government’s guarantee to reimburse all Covid-related spending and announced a review into the balance of taxation between national and local government. Instead, day-to-day public spending is actually due to be less than previously planned.
By failing to reverse the decade-long cuts to our councils the Chancellor has just made the getting a local green recovery much harder, Shropshire Green Party has said.
Oswestry Mayor Councillor Duncan Kerr said "From adult social care to children’s services, libraries and public health, the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined that for many these services are a lifeline. It’s also at a local level that real change is happening on critical issues like the crisis in housing and homelessness and the climate emergency. With proper funding, councils can continue to lead the way, but cuts hold our communities back. Local authorities must have control of their own finances, not have to take the begging bowl to Westminster".
In July the Council’s finance chief stated Shropshire could face bankruptcy. "The Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to put both the funding and the powers in place so that a green recovery can be shaped and led locally. 'Levelling up' must mean devolving power to local people. It’s high time that the government put trust in our local communities and public services, who after years of cuts, deserve nothing less than genuine investment."
Shropshire Green Councillor Julian Dean stated "After the work councils have done in Shropshire and elsewhere to respond to the needs of communities in the face of the pandemic, it is gutting that they now face continued austerity. Local Councils should be leading the drive to ‘build back better’. We’ve seen repeated failures by the Conservative government throughout the pandemic whilst councils have shown they can run local test and trace services and provide food and PPE. It has been councils that have risen to the challenge where national government policy, and outsourcing to private contractors, have clearly failed."
"The need for a new deal for communities based on local investment in greener energy, homes, transport and tourism is even stronger today than when we published our Shropshire Green New Deal 1.0." stated Julian. What’s depressing is Shropshire Council is trying very hard to spend £30 million on the North West Relief Road (NWRR). They could have raised the same cash for measures that would deliver net zero carbon by 2030 and do more for our local economy.
We’re calling for a local economic strategy to include renewable energy; for the council to lead a 'retrofitting partnership' to improve homes and reduce CO2 emissions, for a greener Local Transport Plan. Even though the Autumn Statement has not delivered, opportunities exist, with partners such as the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, to shape a local green recovery that provides quality jobs and opportunities."
On Saturday 28th November Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales is speaking to a Shropshire audience. Shropshire Greens will take this opportunity to launch a 'reboot' for their Green New Deal.
"We want to add some detail to the plan" says Hilary Wendt, South Shropshire Green Party Co-ordinator. "We are keen to hear ideas for where local green investment can make a difference. Putting up Business Parks or building destructive new roads to attract distant corporations is not going to deliver the green recovery we need. We must support and nurture local firms that can grow steadily to meet the inevitable demand as policies on energy, heating, transport and land use change in the coming years to meet the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity. This is how to get ahead of the curve. In the coming months we will update our plan ready for local elections in May. We invite comments from across the community."
Local authorities have seen a reduction in core funding of almost £16 billion over the last decade. It has now been estimated that councils face a £2bn gap between the funding provided and the pressures faced as a result of Covid.
At the same time, local authorities in England have extremely limited power to raise revenue compared to other countries. In 2014 every other G7 national collected more taxes at either a local or regional level.