District Council is the first council in Gloucestershire to lose all government cash for local services - being forced instead to pay money to the government, warn Labour councillors.
Stroud District Council has always funded the services it provides (like collection of
rubbish/recycling, sheltered housing, restaurant food hygiene checks and tackling anti-social behaviour) from a combination of money from the government and money from council tax and business rates. But since the Tories came to power at Westminster in 2010, they have reduced year on year how much money the government gives councils. That money will stop altogether next year - and in fact, Stroud District Council tax payers will have to hand over half a million pounds to central government instead of spending it on local services.
“As the money’s dropped over the last 7 years we’ve cut the council’s spending down, reducing staff, cutting non-essential services, finding more and more ways to increase value for money and cost-effectiveness - as well as finding ways to get extra money coming in (such as renting out office space at Ebley Mill) but with no increase in council tax rates,” says Doina Cornell, Dursley Labour councillor and deputy leader of the group of Labour councillors at SDC. “It’s been hard work but we’ve managed to get the highest satisfaction rates ever from residents and businesses for services provided on a shoestring and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, particularly for older residents and in getting more affordable housing for some of the 5,000 people on the council house waiting list.”
Councillor Cornell said that SDC will be the first council in Gloucestershire to lose all its grant money - a grant that has been paid in some form or another to all local councils for more than 50 years. “With all government money removed, the council has run into a brick wall. What do we do now?” she asked. “Many non-essential services have already been reduced, so the changes the government are forcing on us are sadly now likely to affect local people for the worse. We’re being forced into some hard choices that we are concerned about - and we know local people will be too.” She said that the council will be consulting local people on possible ways forward over the next few weeks.
Like all councils, SDC faces huge pressure on our finances. We will be the first authority in Gloucestershire to lose all the grant we receive from the government. In 2019/20 the district’s council taxpayers will be paying £549,000 to the government; something new for local government. This will be the largest sum paid by any Gloucestershire council and marks a new relationship between central and local government. Effectively, we have to become a ‘self financing’ council. If we don’t take action we could face a £3million hole in our finances by 2021.
Steve Lydon, Labour Group and Council Leader, has written a Letter to Andrew Gwynne MP, Shadow Secretary of State.pdf inviting him to Stroud to meet with the Labour Group and local party. This is to discuss our concerns about the long term future finances of the council and the absurdity of it having to pay back money to government from 2019/20.