Last week I confirmed my proposals for the council’s budget in 2016-17. It is the final year of a three-year plan, which required us to cut £109million from our annual spending as a result of the Conservative Government’s austerity measures.
I have worked hard to ensure we have sensible plans in place and continue to prudently manage our finances, but the end of our current three-year plan does not mark the end of the Government cuts.
In fact by 2020 Doncaster Council will be spending £268 million less on public services every year, when compared to 2010. That means fewer services and fewer people employed to deliver them. Over half the council budget is spent on social care for children, vulnerable adults and the elderly, so they will continue to be affected.
This is the reality of the Conservative austerity measures and now even Tory councils are railing against them. Yet ironically the Prime Minister had the audacity to write to his own local council to complain about cuts to frontline services. You couldn’t make it up.
So what do local people get from the Government in return? A two per cent rise in Council Tax introduced by the Chancellor George Osborne this year, to pay for adult social care.
Here is what Mr Osborne said in Parliament:“The truth we need to confront is this: many local authorities are not going to be able to meet growing social care needs unless they have new sources of funding. That, in the end, comes from the taxpayer. So in future those local authorities who are responsible for social care will be able to levy a new social care precept of up to two per cent on council tax.”
In short, the Chancellor knows councils need more money to pay for adult social care, and instead of cutting our budgets by less, he wants you to pay more. In Doncaster that two per cent increase will raise less than £1.8m. It won’t even cover the extra £3m in costs faced as a result of the new National Living Wage, never mind the £31m we will need to cut next year.
It is also a crafty political trick. The Government is targeting local people and places, particularly those in the north, but it wants local councils to take the blame.
This is the same Government that cut money from flood defences, the police and council services, but made Google pay just £130m to cover 10 years of unpaid taxes.
Last week it was announced that Google’s UK sales rose by 16 per cent, to $1.9billion in the last three months of 2015.
The Government is making councils worse off and Council Tax payers worse off.
Unfortunately it means that in return for paying more, local people across the country will be getting less.