Why Sir Keir Starmer says Labour government could help Sheffield ‘straight away’

Although the leader of the Labour Party – and potentially the country’s next prime minister – warned about the dire state of the economy, he was confident that if elected, his government could help Sheffield Council immediately.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a school in Harlow in Essex. Picture date: Monday March 11, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Starmer. Photo credit: Ian West/PA WireLabour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a school in Harlow in Essex. Picture date: Monday March 11, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Starmer. Photo credit: Ian West/PA Wire
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a school in Harlow in Essex. Picture date: Monday March 11, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Starmer. Photo credit: Ian West/PA Wire

Following launching his party’s local election campaign in Dudley in the West Midlands, Sir Keir Starmer told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that under his Labour government, Sheffield Council would be in a better financial position to run its vital services.

He was told the estimation was that Sheffield had 26 per cent or £858 per household less to spend in real terms when compared to 2010/11 – way above the national average – and the council could have struggled to set a balanced budget meaning it would effectively have to declare bankruptcy.

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In an interview just before Christmas, Cllr Tom Hunt, the leader of Sheffield City Council, told the LDRS that he would prefer “a multi-year deal so councils could plan ahead”.

When Sir Keir was asked about his plans, this was one he mentioned.

He said: “We want to earn enough votes to win the election and then we absolutely want to support Sheffield because, this is not just Sheffield, Sheffield, like many councils, is facing a real financial crunch.

“It’s been years of underfunding and so what we will do is first of, talk to Sheffield Council about changing the funding formula so there could be longer-term funding and money could be spent more effectively.

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“We will end no-fault evictions because Sheffield Council is spending too much of its money on those being evicted even though there is no fault, and of course, we will get the economy under control and reduce inflation that massively helps Sheffield Council.

“What I can say is this, I am absolutely determined that if we are elected in to serve, under a Labour government Sheffield Council will be financially viable and discharge the services that I know so many people in Sheffield are reliant on.

“We’re obviously going to get local growth going as well, a local growth plan will be in place for Sheffield and I am acutely aware of the steel situation in Sheffield having visited the steel sites myself.

“We have a good, robust plan for steel which underpins a lot of what is going on in Sheffield.”

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Also, when he was challenged about what he would do to help some of Sheffield’s most deprived wards – such as Firth Park and Burngreave – after Rishi Sunak in 2022 essentially admitted he had taken money from deprived areas to spend in places like Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Sir Keir said he would turn to those “skinned in the game”.

He added: “Rishi Sunak was absolutely outrageous in what he said in his leadership campaign about funnelling money away from areas across the country – including in the north – that desperately needed it to places where he thought he could get a political advantage.

“That’s been the problem in the last few years, and we need to pick that up and put that right.

“That will happen in the way we’ll operate with people on the ground, whether that’s in Sheffield or other surrounding areas.

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“I am a very strong believer that those who are skinned in the game make the best decisions about their communities.”

As we haven’t seen any numbers just yet about how much money councils up and down the country would receive or offered with a Labour government in charge, the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Sir Keir about whether there was a “fully costed plan” as last December he said he wouldn’t open the spending taps.

He was told if he was not willing to spend, people might ask what the difference would be between his future Labour government and the incumbent Tory government.

Sir Keir Starmer said that they needed “to be honest about the economy being broken by the Tories – there is no point in pretending that isn’t the case”.

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He added: “But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything because we can change the funding formula so that’s over a much longer period.

“Council leaders, including in Sheffield, are saying to me ‘that would make a big difference to the actual money we’ve got in our bank account’.

“We can get rid of the no-fault evictions, again, that will mean more money in the bank account of Sheffield Council.

“We can stabilise the economy, stop inflation eating away the money in the bank account.

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“So it will take time to turn things around, and I get the frustration, but we can do things straight away to improve the situation in Sheffield.”

Earlier this week, Rishi Sunak denied there is a “crisis” in local government funding despite warnings that well-run councils are on the brink of bankruptcy but admitted councils faced “challenges”, in particular with inflation.

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