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‘Stop the Tory squeeze’ on local government finances, say Labour

LABOUR councillors across the country have launched a major campaign to protect working people from more Council Tax rises at next week’s Budget.

Cllr Brian Smedley, leader of the Labour opposition on Sedgemoor District council, said: “The background to this is the removal of rate support grants by the Tories which has led to a combined funding gap of £3bn for the financial year 2022/23.

“Councils in England face extra cost pressures of almost £8 billion by 2024/25 just to keep vital local services running at today’s levels. But this apparently is what the Tories mean by ‘Levelling Up’.

‘Holding Back’

“In reality, having a Tory Government and a Tory council means ‘Holding Back’ and it’s a policy that has already left families hundreds of pounds worse off thanks to an autumn triple whammy – the hike in National Insurance, higher energy prices and a £1,000 cut to Universal credit.”

Launching the campaign, which will see Labour councillors from across the country deliver a petition to Downing Street next week, Bridgwater Mayor Leigh Redman, leader of the Labour Group on Somerset County Council said: “Enough is enough.

“Here in Somerset household budgets are being squeezed to bursting by sky-high energy bills, the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit, and the new Tory tax hike on National Insurance. People can’t take any more.

“Thanks to the Conservative government, council tax bills have increased more than £220 since 2019, the year that Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

“Yet incredibly the Tories want to hammer working families again – at the worst possible time. The Prime Minister and Chancellor must ‘Stop The Squeeze’ on families in Somerset by funding local services properly and ruling out further unfair council tax rises in this year’s Budget.”

Unitary council push

Cllr Smedley added: “In Somerset, there is a major push to abolish district councils and replace them with a single county Unitary Council.

“‘Savings’ is given as a reason for this and the Government’s decision to proceed has already overlooked the mass opposition to the project which people are sceptical will in fact cause cutbacks and job losses.”

Deputy Leader of Labour-controlled Bridgwater Town Council , Cllr Kathy Pearce, said: “Somerset’s funding gap is £12.4m.

“It is, of course, what is driving the Unitary bid and the aim to make the £18m savings. Part of this is transferring services (and costs) to towns and parishes.

“Without proper funding being transferred as well it’s simply an agenda for cuts and passing the blame for those cuts down the line.”

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