Local government

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Conservatives have made the UK world beating again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2024 - 10:15pm in

A quite remarkable chart from the ever industrious John Burn Murdoch from the FT shows that Britain has the highest rate of homelessness in the developed world: Now there seems to me to be a bar chart explanation required because it seems that some countries’ bars appear twice which, I think, means that they display... Read more

Conservatives Branded ‘Nasty Party’ as Voters Reject Plan to Target Sick and Disabled

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/05/2024 - 7:28pm in

The Conservative Party are now seen as the ‘nasty party’, according to exclusive new polling which suggests a large majority of voters reject the Government’s plans to target welfare payments to the disabled and long-term sick.

Rishi Sunak’s Government last week set out plans to end what it described as the UK’s “sick note culture”, while suggesting that welfare payments to some disabled people would be replaced with alternative schemes designed to get them into work.

The plan does not appear to be going down well with voters according to new polling by pollsters We Think this week which found that three quarters (75%) of those surveyed would oppose any further cuts to welfare payments for the long-term sick and disabled.

In fact, far from wanting payments to these groups cut, a majority of those surveyed (54%) said that there is currently “too little” government support for the disabled and sick, compared to just 16% who said there was too much.

A further 29% said that current levels of payments to these groups should be maintained.

The policy may be contributing to broader opinions about the Conservative party. Asked which of the major political parties would be best described as the "nasty party", 46% of those surveyed picked the Conservatives, compared to just 23% who picked Labour. Reform UK came in third place on 17%.

The findings come as the Conservative Party suffer one of their worst set of local election results in the past 40 years.

Early results show the party losing councils right across the country, while narrowly avoiding slipping into third place behind Labour and Reform UK in the Blackpool by-election, which was triggered by a lobbying scandal involving the former Conservative MP Scott Benton.

According to Britain’s leading pollster John Curtice, the numbers point to Rishi Sunak’s party suffering “one of the worst, if not the worst, Conservative performances in local government elections in the last 40 years”, with the party doing at least as badly as the current national opinion polls suggest.

The party's campaigning focus on niche culture war issues also appears to be merely alienating voters far more concerned with other issues, such as the economy and the NHS, according to research by the pollster Luke Tryl, who found this week that such rhetoric about “woke” issues “significantly reduces the likelihood to vote Conservative”.

Asked how likely they were to back the Conservative party at the next general election, just 13% of those surveyed by pollsters We Think said they would be "very likely" to do so compared to 47% who said they would be very unlikely to do so.

Overall 26% of voters said they would be either very or quite likely to back Rishi Sunak's party at the general election, compared to 42% who said they would be either quite or very likely to back Keir Starmer's Labour party.

Read more local elections coverage:

Labour’s ‘Punishment’ of Jamie Driscoll May Hand Him Victory in the North-East

Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Faces Calls to Quit Over Police Uniform Stunt and Social Media Posts

‘I Had to Argue for My Right to Vote’: Voters Report Being Denied a Say in Local Elections Due to Strict Photo ID Law

Ex-Army Officer Who Served in Afghanistan ‘Blocked from Ballot Box’ After Veteran ID Rejected

Susan Hall Voted to Raise Council Tax Despite Condemning Sadiq Khan for Doing the Same

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/04/2024 - 11:18pm in

Susan Hall, the Conservative Party candidate for London mayor, voted for a 2023 hike in council tax as a councillor in Harrow despite condemning Sadiq Khan over his capital-wide tax rises.

Harrow has the third highest average rate of council tax of any London borough at over £2000 from April 2024, according to analysis by the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service. Hall was previously highly critical of Harrow’s high rates of council tax when Labour controlled the council, telling the Harrow Times in 2017 that, “Labour’s mismanagement of Harrow’s finances are punishing our residents with yearly tax rises”.

In February, Hall’s council increased council tax by the maximum legal amount, 5%, boosting the local authority’s coffers by £7.69 million. 

Hall defended herself over the the increase when questioned by Byline Times, saying she had been absent for the vote, and added: “I’m not going to comment on [council] tax…It’s the first meeting I’ve missed in 18 years. I can be forgiven for missing one.” 

Hall is in line to receive a 35% increase in her councillor allowance this year after the licensing committee that she chairs approved an increase from £2500 a year to £4,382. On this matter she told Byline Times: “I’ve got thoughts on that, of course I do, it’s just who I share them with.”

In 2023, Hall was present to vote on the rise of Council Tax, and voted in favour of an increase of 5.9%.

That motion also included an increase in the Councillor’s allowance from a base rate of £8,561 to £9,063, a rise of 5.9%. 

Hall did is yet to respond to requests to comment from Byline Times.

Hall attacked Khan on X, formerly Twitter, over London-wide council tax hikes (for the so-called Mayor’s precept) on 23 January 2023 - one month before she voted to increase council tax in Harrow. 

Giving context to the tax increase in their budget document, council bosses wrote: “The Council’s revenue support grant has reduced from £50.5m to £1.825m (after accounting for the Council Tax Subsidy Admin Grant of £256k which is now subsumed into RSG).

The Council does receive other grant funding to support services, in 2022/23 this totalled £366m. However, these grants are all ring-fenced to areas of activity and cannot be used to support the core budget, for example the Dedicated Schools Grant of £143m. 

It went on: “… is increasing exponentially creating unfunded budget pressures […]. The impact of this is that the Council is heavily reliant on Council Tax to fund its core services. In 2022/23 80% of the Council’s net revenue budget of £183.3m is funded from Council Tax”. 

A January 2024 analysis by the Guardian of the effect of 13 years of austerity on local Government across the UK found that per person spending had been slashed across a wide range of council services including a reduction of 43% in real terms on net spending per person on cultural services, a 40% reduction in roads and transport spending, a 35% reduction on housing spending and 1/3 reduction on planning and development. 

Just a Fraction of Voters Who Lack Photo ID Apply for ‘Free’ Identification – In Warning Sign for Mayoral Elections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/04/2024 - 12:17am in

Barely a tenth of voters who lack photo ID are likely to have applied for the Government’s free form of identification ahead of next week’s local elections, according to analysis of official figures. 

Research by the Electoral Commission shows that people who are unemployed, people with disabilities, and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are least likely to have an accepted form of ID, and should therefore apply for the free voter ID – a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC).

But analysis by campaign group Unlock Democracy shows that, despite a slight uptick in recent applications for the free ID, the number of applications is half of what it was over the same 100-day period ahead of the 2023 local elections. This is despite more voters being expected to head to the polls this year for many councils in England, as well as mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners.

Between mid-January last year and 25 April 2023, 89,654 applications were made for a VAC. In the same time period to the 24 April this year, just 41,792 people have applied.

The Government’s own research in 2021 found that 4% of eligible voters do not have an approved photographic ID – equivalent to more than 1.68 million people in England and Wales. While that figure may have declined in the time since, Unlock Democracy estimates that 1.5 million voters are still likely to lack necessary photo ID to vote.

The deadline to apply for a VAC passes at 5pm today, 24 April. 

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy, said: “Today’s figures are an unhappy reminder that voter ID will once more rob huge numbers of eligible voters of their rights. The Government’s Voter Authority Certificate scheme has proven itself a total failure.

“We already know from last May what the impact of voter ID will be – many thousands prevented from voting, disproportionately young and disabled people and voters from minority backgrounds. Worse, with several high-profile mayoral contests taking place this year, the damage will only be greater. 

"Voter ID is an unnecessary, discriminatory and costly failure that’s damaging UK democracy. It should be abandoned before even greater damage is done at the general election.”

Ahead of today's 5pm deadline, Craig Westwood, director of communication, policy and research at the Electoral Commission, said: “The free ID helps ensure that everyone is able to take part in the May elections, even if they don’t currently have an accepted form of photo ID.

“The process of applying doesn’t take long and there is information and support available from the Electoral Commission and your local authority. And if you have friends or family who don’t have an accepted form of photo ID, please spread the word.” 

If people miss today’s deadline, they can still apply in time for the general election.

The VAC scheme was set up with the aim of ensuring that people without a qualifying ID would still be able to cast their vote at a polling station.

The Electoral Commission found that around 4% of all people who said they did not vote at last May’s local elections listed voter ID requirements as the reason – calculated to be around 740,000 people. 

More than 14,000 people were also recorded as being turned away from polling stations and failing to return due to voter ID in last year’s English local elections. But, as a recent DLUHC report concluded, the actual number of people who could not vote is likely to be much higher. 

Urban areas such as London, where high-profile mayoral contests boost turnout, are likely to be hard-hit by the voter ID policy. A report last September by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution described the voter ID system as “poisoned cure”.

Ministers have long insisted that the introduction of voter ID is to make elections safer. However, out of 58 million votes cast across three elections in 2019, there were only 33 allegations of the type of voter fraud that the voter ID scheme could have prevented, with only one resulting in a conviction, Unlock Democracy notes.

It is estimated that the policy will cost up to £120 million over a decade to implement, due to the need for extra staff, training, larger polling cards, advertising the policy, and the roll-out of the free ID scheme.  

Recent polling found that 16% of voting age respondents in Britain were not aware of voter ID requirements – equivalent to around five million people. Among 18 to 24 year-olds, the figure rises to 27%, more than one in four. 

Accepted forms of photo ID include a UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Commonwealth passport; UK or EEA drivers’ licence; and some concessionary travel passes, such as an UK government-funded older person’s bus pass or an Oyster 60+ card. Voters can use expired ID if they are still recognisable from the photo.

There has been considerable criticism of the larger number of forms of ID accepted for older voters, but almost none designed for young people. 

Applications for the free ID can be submitted online or by completing a paper form and sending it to the local council’s electoral services team. Voters must provide a photo, their full name, date of birth, the address at which they are registered to vote, and their National Insurance number. Applicants must already be registered to vote before applying.

January to April 2023 figures (daily applications)

Equivalent figures for 2024

Note the far lower daily averages for applications (left)

Spotted something strange ahead of the local elections? If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com or the VoteWatch contact above.

Hollowing out localism and also democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 5:25am in

I had no idea that local government used to provide so much and that this provision was so generally accepted and widespread. Just consider what local government used to provide and which has since been hollowed out to go to state industries and now, as we all know, those state industries have been hollowed out... Read more

20 councillors quit Labour in NW over regime’s bullying and attack on free speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 12:45am in

Councillors in Pendle, Brierfield and Nelson – including Borough Council leader – say Labour no longer reflects their views and is bullying and threatening dissenters

“THE LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP NO LONGER REFLECTS OUR VIEWS; IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE.”

That is the statement from twenty Labour councillors who resigned last night citing a draconian shift in the national party, which is targeting local councillors, preventing them from standing for elections and using aggressive bullying tactics to suppress fairness and free speech.

The resignations represent the biggest mass departure from Labour in local government since Keir Starmer became leader. The group, from Pendle Borough Council, Brierfield Town Council, and Nelson Town Council – including borough council leader Asjad Mahmood – has decided against joining any other political party and will form independent groups on their respective councils.

Cllr Asjad Mahmood, who leads the newly formed independent group, said:

I, along with my colleagues, were elected by local residents to represent them in the council chamber. As a Labour Councillor, I have always felt that the party’s policies were aligned with my own beliefs and those of the constituents who have honoured me with their votes. Sadly, over a recent period, senior party officials have attempted to impose their ideas at a local level. I was elected to serve the public, not party officials.

Cllr Yvonne Tennant added:

At a time when 14 years of Tory cuts are affecting local people across Pendle, the Labour Party leadership should be allowing local hard-working councillors the opportunity to challenge the Tories. Instead, colleagues are being hindered from fulfilling their roles.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal MBE said:

I was suspended from the party for 18 months before it was lifted in December 2023 for advocating on behalf of my constituents. I joined the Labour Party over 30 years ago and have always been encouraged to speak out on issues. However, senior figures within the party are attempting to stifle free speech and threaten dedicated councillors with removal as candidates. I, for one, cannot stand by and allow this to happen. The bullying needs to stop.

Last week, Keir Starmer promised voters to push out power to regions if he gets into Downing Street. He made a similar promise to Labour members during the party leadership campaign, pledging to empower and foster local democracy, especially in candidate selections.

Since getting the job, he was waged war on members, imposing candidates in many areas. In many others, members and incumbents have complained about widespread vote-rigging to ensure selections supportive of Starmer’s red-Toryism, often candidates with serious questions to answer about their own conduct. Police are currently investigating one such incident of apparent voter fraud.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

‘The Country has Noticed the Conservatives’ Lack of Levelling Up’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/03/2024 - 8:45pm in

The Government could have used Boris Johnson's 'levelling up’ project not just to transform Britain’s regions, towns and poorer cities, but also to redraw the political map of the UK. That it has failed spectacularly to do both is a key reason why it is now facing political oblivion and why the Conservative Party will find it hard to rebuild public support. 

In 2019, levelling up was a masterstroke. Even then, the public was well aware that a decade of under-investment had damaged public services and made inequality between and within regions ever more stark. 

Johnson’s pledge to level up the UK – combined with specific promises to increase the number of nurses, doctors, police offices and hospitals – signalled a radical change from the policy of austerity pursued by his predecessors. 

Had Johnson been true to his word, levelling up could have transformed Britain’s regions, investment could have poured into regional transport and other infrastructure, and the NHS and other public services could have full quotas of staff instead of record shortages. 

Instead, as we approach another general election, the failure of levelling up has been made clear in a report published by the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee last week. 

As of last September, it found that local authorities had spent only £1.24 billion of the £10.47 billion the Government promised to tackle regional inequality across the UK. 

Crucially, the committee found that the Government has nothing in place to measure this policy’s impact in the long term. In other words, as has been pointed out, there is “no compelling evidence” that levelling up has achieved anything.

As recently as 2022, the Government were talking up the transformative impact of levelling up.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said in 2022 that the economic prize was potentially huge: “If under-performing places were levelled up towards the UK average, unlocking their potential, this could boost aggregate UK GDP by tens of billions of pounds each year.”

The disconnect between this rhetoric and the reality could not be more stark.

Since 2010-11, local authorities have experienced a 27% real-terms cut in core spending power due to reduced central government funding. Eight of the 317 English local authorities have effectively declared bankruptcy since 2018.

In the most egregious example, Birmingham City Council – Europe’s largest local authority – is to severely reduce or do away with a swathe of council services in pursuit of savings of about £300 million. This is the deepest programme of local cuts ever put through by a UK council.

Cuts will impact some of the most vulnerable groups in Birmingham. Spending on children will be cut by millions, including cuts to an early help service that helps families in crisis and to transport for children aged over 16 who have special educational needs. 

Youth services will be almost halved. Spending on the arts will now be zero. Eleven community centres are being sold off. Highway maintenance, street lighting, recycling, bin collection, and street cleaning suffer. Yet residents face an increase to council tax of 21% by 2026 – a cruel fate for residents facing years of cuts to what, for many, have been essential services. 

But it isn’t just Birmingham. In 2019, the entire country was promised increased investment, public services, and a restoration of the kind of public realm the Conservatives had dismantled over the previous decade.

What the public has received is more of the same – austerity and higher taxes from the Government and, in many cases, cash-strapped local councils. 

This is one of the main factors damaging the Conservatives’ poll ratings. They have wildly over promised and under delivered in a way that is obvious to anyone using public transport, the NHS, education, or other public services, or indeed anyone walking down their local high street. 

In 2019, Boris Johnson explicitly thanked Labour voters who had ‘lent him their vote’. He said “we have won votes and the trust of people who have never voted Conservative before" and that "those people want change".

"We cannot, must not, let them down," he added. "We must recognise the reality that we now speak for everyone from Woking to Workington, Clwyd South, Sedgefield [and] Wolverhampton."

He and his successors have betrayed that trust – a betrayal that will take a generation at least to overcome.

Those voters in Sedgfield, Clywd South, and Wolverhampton will not be so quick to trust a Conservative next time, whatever their policies and whoever their leader. 

But the failure of levelling up – and the prior decade of austerity that preceded it – is doing deeper harm to our politics and public realm

Resolution Foundation research shows that living with crumbling public services undermines people’s trust in the ability of the state to effect change for the better, whoever is in power. 

“This isn’t a small problem,” says the Resolution Foundation’s chief executive, Torsten Bell. “Change requires citizens to imagine a better future so they can embrace the disruption involved in getting there.”

This warning is consistent with wider research looking across 166 elections post-1980. It found that austerity measures tend to reduce voter turnout but also boost votes for non-mainstream parties – hence, at least in part, explaining last decade’s UKIP popularity and the more recent rise of Reform. 

Labour’s task, if as expected it wins a sizeable majority in the next election, will be not just one of rebuilding public services, but of rebuilding faith that politics can make a real difference to lives and communities. 

Trams and tides

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/03/2024 - 8:20am in

I was interested in the number of trams in France and here we have the answer. Lots! When Avignon with a population of a mere 92,000 has trams, then it is woefully apparent that in the UK where Leeds with a population of c 600k has none – and indeed is the largest city in... Read more

Video: ‘Freudian hasbara – ‘Don’t compare other genocides to this one’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/03/2024 - 12:36am in

Young pro-Israel propagandist’s reaction when she realises what she’s given away speaks volumes…

The penny starts to drop…

The attempt by a young proponent of hasbara – pro-Israel propaganda – to shame a US town hall meeting for discussing a motion calling or a ceasefire in Gaza ended in humiliation when a ‘freudian slip’ let to her admitting that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Laughter broke out at the January meeting in Burlington, Vermont, causing the young woman to pause in her hectoring – and her reaction as she realised what she had said spoke volumes:

Shamefully, the meeting still voted with the pro-Israel propagandists – but the slip revealed that the ‘friends of genocide’ know the truth of what they are inexcusably defending. Tragically for the civilians of Gaza, the US, UK and other western governments are more than prepared to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians, mostly women and children and collude in mass murder of innocents.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

English Councils on the Brink of Meltdown: A Crisis Fourteen Years in the Making 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/03/2024 - 11:06pm in

Over half of local councils in England could go ‘bankrupt’ over the next 5 years, according to a Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) survey revealed last week. The crisis threatens to devastate our local public services. Libraries, parks, theatres, public toilets, street cleaning services, youth provision and highway maintenance are just some of the many vital local public services affected by this unfolding crisis. 

This is a catastrophe for communities, fourteen years in the making. Councils across England have been grappling with unprecedented real-world cuts to their spending power for well over a decade. 

In 2010 political choices were made at the national level to reduce government grants and transition to a very different funding system. Councils would be expected to raise more of their income locally via Council Tax, business rates and local charges.  Councils serving some of the poorest parts of the country have seen the biggest overall cut to their spending power, leaving a growing number unable to balance the books.

A recent report published by the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) showed that Government policy has led to a £13.9 billion cumulative cut to local authority budgets since 2010. 

The core spending power of English councils is 18% lower now than it was back in 2010/11, in real terms. For councils serving the poorest populations that figure jumps to 26%.

There are stark examples that expose the grim reality and gross unfairness of government policy. According to the latest data the City of Bradford Council has suffered a £955 funding cut per dwelling, whereas Cambridgeshire is £166 worse off per household. 

Another comparison shows that while Nottingham City Council has been trying to cope with a £950 reduction in spending power per dwelling, on the same measure Oxfordshire County Council is just £96 worse off per residential property.

Despite years and years of tough choices, service reductions and closures, asset sales, increasing Council Taxes and desperate pleas to central government to reform the funding system, many councils are left having to make the most unpalatable decisions to remain legally compliant.

The Perfect but Predictable Storm

This crisis was not only entirely predictable, it was clearly predicted. In 2010, Barnet Council published a budget chart which showed that without government reform of the social care system, their entire annual budget would be used up by adult and children’s care services by 2023.

For a growing number of councils that is exactly what is now happening, with statutory care services for the elderly and for vulnerable children taking up the vast bulk of financial resources, leaving too little left for everything else. 

Not only have councils been hit by growing demand in these service areas they are also now seeing huge increases in people being made homeless. As the higher cost of living takes a toll on households they ultimately present to their local Town Hall in need of emergency or temporary accommodation.

The most recent Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities data shows a record 109,000 households living in temporary accommodation. 

What Will this Mean for People?

On the ground in our towns, cities and villages, the political choices of national government, the funding technicalities and formulas have real-world impacts on communities.

For Councils facing a bleak financial outlook and attempting to remain legally compliant with a balanced budget, a range of ever-more-awful actions become necessary: the closure of facilities and public buildings, fewer libraries, streets not adequately maintained or cleansed, growing backlogs of cases in council departments such as planning and children’s services, less action on anti-social behaviour and generally an inability for Councils to be the effective lead organisation of their ‘place.’

The Government announced exceptional financial support for a number of the most distressed councils this week, but the list of councils on the brink is set to accelerate. The growing costs of care services for the elderly cannot be met by council taxes. Structural reform and change at the national level is desperately and urgently needed to stop a cycle of decline in our communities. 

Pages