Warning shot fired at Chancellor by Tower Hamlets mayor on Spending Review despite tax credit U-turn
PUBLISHED: 13:23 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 14:28 25 November 2015
The government is being challenged today by the mayor of one of Britain’s most deprived areas not to cut funding for vital public services as Chancellor George Osborne makes his Autumn statement to Parliament.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs says areas like London’s deprived East End will suffer badly if he tightens the purse-strings for local authorities too much as they battle to keep “vital services” going.
“I urge the government to recognise the need for vital services when deciding funding levels for the council,” he said.
“Many people face serious levels of deprivation in Tower Hamlets, where the services we run can be a lifeline in helping to make ends meet.”
But the Chancellor, meanwhile, has surprised MPs today by bowing to massive pressure from Labour, the House of Lords and Tory backbenchers and has scrapped cuts to tax credit altogether in a radical U-turn as part of his Autumn Statement.
He is setting out the results of the Spending Review explaining how £4 trillion in taxes is being spent over the next five years.
The Town Hall, meanwhile, is already in public consultations to identify priorities to “maximise resources” as funds to the public purse continue to be cut.
The Chancellor’s Spending Review decides the budget for each department in Whitehall, including Communities and Local Government which doles out funds to local authorities like Tower Hamlets.
But he has previously announced the department’s funding is being cut by an average eight per cent a year for the next four years, totalling a 30pc by 2019—which Mayor Biggs fears will hit areas in poverty like the East End.
His Labour-run authority, in the mean time, has joined 18 other London boroughs today to warn the Chancellor in an open letter about “consequences of further cuts”.
The letter has been sent to the Treasury highlighting the difficulty of providing essential services and the knock-on impact on the NHS if government cuts to local authorities go ahead.
“A 30pc cut over the next four years means a significant impact on adult social care,” the letter says.
“This puts at severe risk our ability to fund elderly residents who are supported in the community instead of occupying a hospital bed, which typically costs the public purse three times the amount.
“The NHS is already experiencing enormous strain and pressure on GPs and emergency departments with winter approaching is already increasing.”
The other London boroughs joining Tower Hamlets are Hackney, Islington, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham, Lewisham, Lambeth, Ealing, Enfield, Southwark, Greenwich, Camden, Brent, Hounslow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Merton, Harrow and Croydon.
Tower Hamlets’ mayor Biggs joined a meals-on-wheels delivery round last week to see how government cuts have been squeezing services since he took office in June.
His contract services team is fighting to keep down costs while dishing out meals every day as a “lifeline” to the pensioners and vulnerable householders that need it.