19 March 2021
What is Talking Point?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: Do you agree with the analysis of the National Audit Office (as far as Cambridge is concerned)? Will the council need to cut services to balance the books, and if so, what? Do you agree with the Local Government Association's statement that "the government must cover all the cost pressures and income losses incurred by councils "in full"?
It is unthinkable that the Conservative government would abandon councils on the verge of bankruptcy. It should provide funds immediately to cover all costs incurred due to the pandemic. Council budgets were already cut and severely strained due to the government’s austerity policies over the last decade. These policies do not produce the results that we need for a fairer or greener society, nor are they as economically effective as the government portrays.
The government must value the right things e.g. reducing regional inequality, housing homeless people and investing in council housing, as well as tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Councils are best placed to provide these and other essential services. Comparing Serco’s extortionate Test and Trace and the NHS’s vaccination scheme shows us that systems built through existing local networks are more effective than centralised (privatised) systems. This ‘local not central’ strategy is Green Party policy.
Cambridge’s cost of living is already too expensive. Repeated lockdowns have meant hardship for the poorest households and an increased need for services. Despite increases in council tax, every year Cambridge’s spending money has gone down, and cuts continue year-on-year. Due to Conservative cuts, the council’s ‘core spending power’ has fallen since 2016/17 from £21.0m to £18.1m.
The government is dishonest to portray the nation’s finances as if we were a household and suggest the only way through this funding crisis is for councils to cut services to ‘balance the books’. The government controls the supply of money. If they will not provide councils with severely needed funds it is because there is no political will, not because they cannot. This week the government found billions extra for nuclear weapons (inexplicably), but protest that there is no more money for councils or real pay rises for NHS staff? Something doesn’t add up.
Matt is a City Council candidate for Abbey, his professional background is in chemical engineering, and he has a particular interest in how local communities could be structured in a healthier, more sustainable way.