No libraries or streetlights left in Britain by 2020 if austerity doesn't stop, warns Tory local government chief

'We won’t be cleaning the streets we won’t be cutting the grass, we won’t be putting street lights on at all, your libraries will go, your pot holes won’t get filled up, ' warns Lord Porter

May Bulman
Wednesday 05 July 2017 10:46
Tory local government chair: No streetlights or libraries by 2020 if austerity doesn't end

There will be no streetlights or libraries left in Britain by 2020 if the Government doesn't relax austerity for local councils, the Conservative local government chief has warned.

Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), said local authorities must be “at the front of the queue” with easing austerity, saying that if they don’t get help, street lights, libraries and other core services will cease to be provided.

Speaking to Channel 4 News during a meeting of town leaders in Birmingham on Tuesday, he said: “On the basis that the Government have now said or appear to have conceded that austerity has come to an end, we want them to make sure that because we were in the front of the queue to start with, we need to be in the front of the queue when it ends.”

When asked what would happen if local councils didn’t receive help, he warned: “We won’t be cleaning the streets we won’t be cutting the grass, we won’t be putting street lights on at all, your libraries will go, your potholes won’t get filled up.

“We’ll be back to just delivering the core services we have to deliver through statute.”

During the meeting, the LGA chief urged the Government to lift the cap on council tax bills in order to close a looming funding gap that will leave councils billions of pounds short of being able to provide affordable homes, school places and social care.

Councils are currently facing a £5.8bn shortfall by the end of the decade as a result of a 75 per cent drop in core central government funding between 2015 and 2020.

Under laws introduced by the Coalition government in 2011, they currently have to hold a local referendum if they want to increase council tax by more than 2 per cent.

The LGA also wants councils to be able to keep all of the £26bn they collect each year in business rates – a proposal that was included in the Local Government Finance Bill that was close to being passed in the last parliament but was thrown out when the general election was called, and was not reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech.

As things stand, almost half of councils in England – 168 local authorities – will receive no core central government funding by 2019/20.

During the meeting in Birmingham, a number of Tory council leaders were also crying out for cuts to end.

Paul Carter, Tory leader of Kent County Council, told Channel 4 News: “Eventually the elastic will break, and we’re now very close to that point if we don’t get some better news in the coming year.”

Julia Potts, Tory leader of Waverly Borough Council, meanwhile said: “We desperately need clarity on what’s happening in the future with our government grant. For us in Waverly, we’re due to go into a negative government grant and we need to know what is happening there and what our actual position is.”

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