The Mayor of Hackney responds to the Chancellor's Budget
Unfortunately this was yet another Budget focusing on eye-catching one-offs, rather than offering long-term solutions to the serious funding shortfalls across local government and an end to austerity. Another ad-hoc boost for adult social care is welcome, but until we get a meaningful reform of the system it is simply a sticking plaster.
The extra funding for Universal Credit, while offering some much-needed support, does not address the fundamental flaws in the system that we have raised numerous times. The Government has ignored lessons learned through the gradual roll-out across the country and while these tweaks might make good headlines, they will not help those who are at risk of being plunged into debt or those fleeing domestic abuse who are unable to claim at both their family home and refuge.
Likewise, the ‘little extras’ promised for schools is desperately needed but in no meaningful way addresses the current crisis in education funding which has resulted in the ongoing loss of valued teaching staff and schools having to ask parents to help cover their costs.
We’ve continually campaigned for support for businesses affected by the Government’s huge hikes in Business Rates rates last year, so it’s reassuring to see the Chancellor listening to councils like Hackney and their business communities. The money for high streets is welcome, and hopefully the process for allocation will be fair and benefit communities across the country.
After eight years of calling for action, the confirmation that the housing borrowing cap has been abolished immediately is good news, as is removing Stamp Duty on shared ownership homes, of which we will be building hundreds in Hackney over the next few years. However, the property value cap should be flexible to reflect house prices in London. While both are welcome and we will be able to develop more Council homes for rent, the combined impact of Universal Credit and a failure to address the freeze in housing support will continue to fuel homelessness in Hackney.
Hackney Council has had £130 million cut from its core grant funding from Government since 2010/11. This is the equivalent of £471 per head - one of the largest cuts in England. In terms of spending power, Hackney will lose £1,425 per household between 2010-20, the highest in the country.
The Council faces significant funding shortfalls in many services as a result of increased demand, Government policy and cuts to its grant. Areas particularly affected include Special Education Needs (£9m), Adult Social Care Commissioning (£5m), Adult Social Care Demographic Growth and increasing complexity of clients (£2m), Children’s Social Care Commissioning (£3m), families without recourse to public funds (£2m), and Temporary Accommodation, where there is a shortfall of £10m relative to the amount covered by Housing Benefit, which may rise further depending on the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act.