By Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council.
This column originally appeared in the Ealing Gazette.
Amid the Parliamentary Brexit chaos earlier this month, the Chancellor unveiled government spending plans for departments next year including local government. While it included a few crumbs of comfort like an extra £700m for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services and £1bn for Children’s and Adults’ social care it was rightly savaged by the Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who described it as a ‘grubby electioneering stunt’ and a ‘sham’ Spending Review.
Local government across the UK over the last 10 years has had its government funding reduced by £16bn, that’s 60p lost for every pound, although in Ealing it’s 64p of every pound. Getting back £1.8bn this year amidst cries of ‘austerity being over’ as the government hurtles towards the economic disaster of a ‘no deal Brexit’ is an insult to our intelligence. Don’t get me wrong the £1.8bn is welcome but it is no where near enough and it is only for one year and with the government implacably intent on driving the economy over a cliff with a ‘no deal Brexit’ it is not sustainable in the years ahead or credible. Coming at the same time as the Prime Minister calls for an election it is a very ‘grubby electioneering stunt’ indeed.
The picture in Ealing is extremely tough. This week Cabinet discussed a budget update report showing our children’s services are experiencing financial pressure of £13.4m caused by increasing demand for SEND services. Added to this are £5.4m of pressures in adult social care. That extra £700m for SEND will barely meet half the shortfall Councils are experiencing in these services for our most vulnerable children and we are not sure we will get our fair share of it as the Tory government always finds a way to look after the most well-off Tory Councils first. The £1bn for social care is just sticking plaster and the desperately needed long term structural reforms are still in the long grass where former PM Mrs May kicked them after her disastrous 2017 general election campaign.
All in all, a pretty gloomy picture, but your Labour Council in Ealing will continue to fight against Brexit and look after the most vulnerable.