Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake, writes to the Prime Minister regarding the Adult Social Care crisis, and special funding arrangements for Surrey County Council

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Prime Minister,

We are writing regarding funding arrangements for Conservative-run Surrey County Council. Specifically, the alleged reason behind David Hodge’s decision to drop a planned referendum on increasing council tax by 15 per cent to cover the severe shortfalls in social care, after apparently holding ‘several conversations’ with Whitehall figures.

It has been widely reported in leaked texts, sent by David Hodge supposedly intended for Nick King, Sajid Javid’s special advisor, that DCLG was working on a ‘Memorandum of Understanding.’

In response, as Leaders of Labour councils and council groups, we have a series of questions:

  1. Was a deal struck for Surrey County Council?
  2. If so, what are the details of the deal?
  3. Why was a special deal struck with Surrey behind closed doors?
  4. Does the Government finally recognise that local Government is grossly underfunded and is that why they have given a special deal to Surrey?
  5. Does the Government now recognise that there will be a £2.6bn shortfall in social care funding by 2020?
  6. If a deal was struck, will Ministers offer the same deal given to Surrey to all councils, regardless of political affiliation, when the Local Government finance settlement is published on 22nd February?

We have a crisis in social care, resulting from the Conservative Government’s cuts to local authority funding. Secret backroom deals are not the answer. We urgently need a proper solution, which means providing councils with the funding they needed to solve this crisis.

Given the public interest in this matter we will be publishing this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Judith Blake              Leeds City Council
Barrie Grunwald     St Helen’s Council
Mohammed Butt    Brent Council
Richard Watts          Islington Council
Stewart Young         Cumbria County Council
Simon Henig            Durham County Council
Nick Forbes              Newcastle City Council
Lewis Herbert          Cambridge City Council
Peter Martland        Milton Keynes Council
Warren Morgan      Brighton & Hove City Council
Jaz Athwal                 Redbridge Council
Sharon Taylor          Stevenage Council
Simon Greaves        Bassetlaw Council
Peter John                Southwark Council
Sam Dixon                Cheshire West and Chester Council
Steven Brady           Hull City Council
Iain Malcolm            South Tyneside Council
Ray Oxby                   North East Lincolnshire Council
David Budd              Middlesborough Council
Jean Stretton           Oldham Council
Simon Letts              Southampton Council
Sue Jeffrey                Redcar and Cleveland Council
Doug Taylor             Enfield Council
Susan Hinchcliffe    Bradford Council
Mark Townsend      Burnley District Council
Hazel Simmons       Luton Council
Alan Rhodes             Nottinghamshire County Council
Claire Kober             Harringey Council
Peter Box                  Wakefield Council
Christopher Akers-Belcher          Hartlepool Council
Richard Leese          Manchester City Council
Bob Price                  Oxford Council
Tom Beattie             Corby Council
Sachan Shah            Harrow Council
Bob Cook                  Stockton Council
John Clancy              Birmingham City Council
Julian Bell                  Ealing Council
Julie Dore                  Sheffield City Council
Steve Bullock           Lewisham Council
Shaun Davies           Telford & Wrekin Council
Terry O’Neill             Warrington Council
Stephen Lydon        Stroud Council
Phil Davies                Wirral Council
Alexander Ganotis Stockport Council
Steve Eling                Sandwell Council
Sarah Hayward       Camden Council
Peter Lamb              Crawley Council
Simon Blackburn    Blackpool Council
Steve Houghton      Barnsley Council
Jon Collins                 Nottingham City Council
Robin Wales             Newham Council
Alistair Bradley        Chorley Council
Stephen Alambritis            Merton Council
Darren Rodwell       Barking and Dagenham Council
Ian Maher                 Sefton Council
Ros Jones                  Doncaster Council
Roger Lawrence      Wolverhampton Council
Martin Gannon       Gateshead Council
Tim Swift                   Calderdale Council
Cliff Morris                Bolton Council
Pete Lowe                 Dudley Council
Tony Newman         Croydon Council

http://www.itv.com/news/2017-01-24/nine-out-of-10-councils-in-england-tell-itv-news-raising-council-tax-has-made-no-difference-to-social-care-crisis/

 

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Government plan to take further £100 million from Leeds

Back in 2010, when David Cameron and Nick Clegg where pledging themselves to one other on steps on Number 10, Leeds City Council received £445 million a year in funding from central Government.  This is funding that is spent on front line services here in Leeds – on care homes, public transport, housing and our environment.  The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats cut this £445 million a year right down to £231 million a year – and now, the Conservatives want to take an additional £100 million from Leeds every year.  Leaving us with less than 30% of the Government funding we had before the Coalition came to power 6 years ago.

We’ve seen these ideological cuts to Education, to Health, to Defence and to our Police – but none of them have been cut by 71% as Leeds local Government has.

This has a very real impact on frontline services. Absolute poverty is estimated to affect 155,000 people in Leeds, and local Government is the most effective way of tackling this poverty.  Leeds City Council is doing what it can, by boosting apprenticeships and by paying the real living wage – but the huge cuts from the Conservatives are only taking us backwards.

When Iain Duncan Smith resigned from Government, he himself stated that “Certain policies..are more and more..distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.”

These cuts are a political choice and not an economic necessity, and they are not over yet.

On Wednesday 14th September, Leeds City Council held a meeting of all Councillors, and voted on a motion to condemn the cuts already made to Leeds, and to halt the additional £100 million of cuts.  Unfortunately the Leeds Conservatives voted against this motion.

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The Government’s decision to take all this money from Leeds in such a sustained and counterproductive period of austerity has had an unfair and damaging impact on the city.  There are now 14,000 more people in Leeds, living in deprivation, since the start of these cuts.

Interestingly, this has not been the case in all Councils.  Down South, the Conservative run Council’s of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire have received payments of £24 million £9 million and £19 million respectively, to help them cope with this imposed austerity.

In fact, if Leeds received the same level of Government funding per person as Wokingham in Berkshire, the council with the lowest level of cuts, we would have an additional £100 million per annum in our budget.

Just think what that could do to our levels of poverty and deprivation here in Leeds.

Cllr Judith Blake – Leader of Leeds City Council

Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake, writes to David Cameron following the Prime Minister’s Council Cuts hypocrisy 

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing with regards to your recent letter to Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, and the offer of a meeting with your advisers in the Number 10 policy unit in order to discuss the implementation of local government cuts in your area.

In your letter to him of 14th September you stated:

“In that context, I would be happy to initiate a further dialogue with advisers in the No10 Policy Unit and yourself – please contact Sheridan Westlake if you wish to take this up.”

Letter from David Cameron to Ian Hudspeth, 14 September 2015, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/11_11_15_cameronletter.pdf

I note from media coverage and Labour MP Jon Ashworth’s letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, that were this offer available to Oxfordshire Council only, as the local authority relevant to your own constituency, you would be in breach of the ministerial code which makes clear that your Ministerial facilities should not be used for constituency activities.

I therefore write to request a similar meeting with your Number 10 Policy Unit.

I share your concern about cuts to frontline services, including elderly day care centres, child care centres and libraries and agree that cuts to these areas would be ‘unwelcome and counter-productive’.

As a council we have borne the heavy burden of the last set of local government cuts by making all the ‘creative’ and ‘back office savings’ we can. Having made those savings, we are now faced with further budget cuts handed down by central government and we now see no other option but to consider cuts to front line services that will hit children, the elderly and the vulnerable in Leeds.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Judith Blake

Leader of Leeds City Council

Tory cuts to vital local services in Leeds just keep coming

Leeds Labour Councillors have reacted angrily to a report that predicts a cut in funding by the Tory Government for the council’s services of nearly £70 million per year by 2020. This is on top of cuts to Health service funding announced within weeks of the new Conservative government taking office.

Since 2010 Leeds Council has been subjected to Tory cuts totalling £180 million which is some 40% of the funding towards providing local services despite 1-in-5 Leeds residents living in a deprived area.  Had Leeds received  a similar funding settlement to Surrey County Council then last year there would have been an extra £17 million available for Council services. Not only are the Conservatives attacking local services they are treating different parts of the country unfairly.

Along with the cuts impact of inflation and rising demand for many services the funding gap identified for 2016/17 is £49 million in the report which will got to the Council’s Executive Board on October 21st.

Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake commented:

“It’s wholly wrong that Leeds has taken a massive hit in terms of funding reductions in the last five years, especially compared with better off areas in the South. Money raised from Council Tax and other local income will have to stretch further and further to cover everything we consider vital. There is no doubt that the challenge for the city will grow as the Tory Government shrinks funding for services alongside hitting many residents’ incomes with cuts to Tax Credits. “

Government’s anti-trade union Bill will damage industrial relations in Leeds, says Council Leader

Trade unions working for Leeds City Council have joined forces with the political leadership to fight the Government’s Trade Union Bill.

The Bill currently being debated in Parliament would severely restrict workers’ rights to take industrial action to protect jobs and services.

UNISON, the GMB, UNITE and UCATT all represent members who work for the local authority and they have welcomed the support of Councillor Judith Blake and her leadership team for the national campaign to oppose the Bill.

Councillor Blake said:

“The proposed Trade Union Bill could adversely affect the positive industrial relations we have. We believe it is unnecessary to raise ballot thresholds in respect of industrial action, as industrial action is a last resort and we can work together to avoid it.”

“If workplace issues are important the trade unions will always remain able to organise industrial action, regardless of additional regulations the Government seeks. ”Councillor Blake added that any plan to prevent public sector employers from deducting trade union subscriptions would be “unnecessary and petty”.

Councillor Blake added that the Council believed collective bargaining provided a positive framework for positive employee relations.

UNISON Regional Organiser Dean Harper said:

“We welcome the support from the Council because this Bill is grossly unfair and anti-democratic.” and Jon Smith, Regional Officer for the GMB said “It is welcome that the employers from Leeds City Council are standing shoulder to shoulder with their employees in fighting this bill. It certainly calls into question who this government is representing. As a member of the Tory Government, David Davis MP, has said, the Bill would not be out of place in Franco’s Fascist Spain but has no place in modern Britain.”

“We will campaign against this attack on our human rights with all the energy we can muster and we are delighted the leadership of Leeds City Council share our opinion.”