The Prime Minister recently invited the Council Leader from his constituency in Oxfordshire to a meet with his Number 10 Policy Unit to discuss how to manage government cuts to their Council. This preferential treatment has been noticed by other Council Leaders who are also writing to the PM to ask for a meeting.
Cllr Roger Lawrence’s letter to the PM says:
Dear Prime Minister,
Meeting with Number 10 Policy Unit
In a letter sent to Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, on 14th September you offered him a meeting with your advisers in the Number 10 policy unit in order to discuss the implementation of local government cuts in your area.
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.
In order to avoid what appears preferential treatment for your own constituency, I am therefore writing to request a similar meeting with your Number 10 Policy Unit to discuss the funding of local services in Wolverhampton.
In your letter to Councillor Hudspeth you express concern about cuts to frontline services, including elderly day care centres, libraries and museums. You state they would be ‘unwelcome and counter-productive’. I share your concerns, however it is hypocritical of you to make these comments at the same time as pushing forward more deep cuts to local government budgets.
Like many Councils serving communities with areas of high deprivation and complex need, Wolverhampton has suffered disproportionately from your Government’s cuts. Over the last five years, the value of general grants awarded to the City of Wolverhampton Council by Central Government has reduced by over 50% in real terms leaving the council with over £147 million less to spend in 2015/16 than in 2010/11 in cash terms.
Despite these unprecedented cuts to our City, the Council was sought to prioritise jobs, skills, employment and protection for vulnerable, children and adults. In order to do this we have already made cuts to the “back-office”, shared services with other councils and are in the process of significantly reducing the number of buildings owned by the Council. We have reduced our workforce by more than 1,500 with reductions set to continue.
Having made all those changes, we now face the challenge of finding at least a further £134 million out of our budget over the next three years of which £46 million of savings remain to be found. This is before any additional announcements by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement later this month.
My Councillor colleagues and I stand committed to providing the best outcomes for the people of Wolverhampton and meeting our statutory responsibilities to protect vulnerable adults, children and families. However, continued Government cuts threaten all sections of Council service, particular as these cuts consistently contain an inbuilt unfairness that favours more prosperous areas.
I urge you to reconsider the impact of your policies on our residents and look forward to meeting your advisers to hear their thoughts on how unprecedented cuts can be delivered without any impact on front line services.
Councillor Roger Lawrence
Leader, City of Wolverhampton Council