Calderdale Council chief to send a letter to Chancellor over funds shortfall

Calderdale Council’s Chief Executive will be asked to write to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak calling on him to acknowledge a “shortfall in real funding” for local authorities and change how it is done.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 3:10 pm
Calderdale Council chief executive Robin Tuddenham
Calderdale Council chief executive Robin Tuddenham

A majority of councillors backed the measure included in a motion proposed by Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Resources, Coun Silvia Dacre (Lab, Todmorden) which also accused the Government of “outsourcing” tax rises to councils to avoid any responsibility for cuts to local services.

Supporting her, Coun Helen Rivron (Lab, Ovenden) said there had been a “slow burn” of ten years of austerity which had seen local services pay a price.

“You are outsourcing taxation and you’re hoping outsourcing the blame with it,” she told Conservative councillors who took issue with the ruling Labour group’s claims.

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Conservative group leader Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn) had outlined more than £120 million Calderdale had received from the Government ranging from money for rail stations at Halifax and Elland to Towns Fund cash for Brighouse and Todmorden.

“Calderdale has done rather better than many places in terms of funding from the Government,” he said, adding that much of the money for projects which came to the council through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority was Government money.

“Well done for obtaining the funding but don’t keep carping on about this,” said Coun Leigh.

Coun Ann Kingstone (Lab, Skircoat) responded: “Don’t tell me Conservative Governments have been generous with funding and it is poor people paying the cost of this.”

But Coun Sophie Whittaker (Con, Rastrick) said there were constant referrals to austerity but it had to happen, reminding councillors of a note left by outgoing Labour treasury minister Liam Byrne in 2010 which said “sorry, there’s no money.”

She was supporting a point made many times by senior Conservative Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) arguing that in 2010 the Labour Government was spending £158 billion per year more than its income, measures had to be taken and because of the size of the debt could not be done quickly.

However, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said Government grant cuts meant services were being funded by rises in Council Tax and if you were on a low income these increases were a massive amount. “It’s a regressive tax, it punishes the poorest the most – as will the cap on social care which will mean them selling their homes,” she said.

Coun Dacre said when reducing grants the Government had a choice about how to share cuts but the council’s spending power had fallen 22 per cent over the last ten years, compared to say the Cotswolds, which had only seen it fall by four per cent.

The consequence was Calderdale still needed to fund millions of pounds of cuts – set out in the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy, she said.

Coun Dacre called on Mr Sunak to recognise the funding gap, base criteria on need, stop competition for funding for capital projects and to trust local people, through elections, to choose how they wanted money to be spent.

Coun Jacob Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland) said Council Tax had gone up in years of Labour Government too, for example 2005-2006.

Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) wanted to see an end to councils having to compete in “beauty contests” against other authorities to win grant cash from certain pots rather than being able plan properly.

“It’s fragmented, segmented, and levelling down,” she said.

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun James Baker (Warley) also disliked having to bid from pots of money and the Government often did this with populist issues so local Conservative MPs could say “look what we’ve done for you.”