Daily View 2×2: 4 June 2020

2 big stories

Alok Sharma is awaiting the outcome of his COVID-19 test, having caused the suspension of business in the Commons yesterday after showing signs of ill health whilst at the dispatch box. Perhaps the message will finally get through to Jacob Rees-Mogg that his caricature of parliamentary democracy should come to an end? Or are his intentions sinister rather than ill-advised?

One of the less immediately apparent impacts of the pandemic is a crisis in local government finance, with many councils now dependent to varying degrees on income from commercial property assets and commercial services. The crisis in the retail sector, as well as increased expenditure during the past three months or so to ensure delivery of key services, combined with a failure by central Government to finance the shortfall, is leading local authorities to warn that they will run out of money imminently.

North Devon DC is forecasting £3.4m of lost income and £600,000 cost pressures as a result of Covid-19. The council has received just over £1m from the £3.2bn emergency funding handed out to councils in the wake of the pandemic, leaving it with a shortfall of £2.9m for 2020-21.

Its Head of Resources is warning that, without information regarding further funding by July, the issuing of a notice under Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 is likely. That would mean a freeze on all but essential spending while a plan is dawn up to bring the budget back into balance.

2 social media posts

Daisy Cooper isn’t beating around the bush…

Our Mayoral candidate for London, Siobhan Benita, has posted her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter demonstrations…

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10 Comments

  • Many councils are so ill run – pre-virus – that they need to be let go bankrupt with no govn resources to refinance them or cover costs and then restarted afresh with much lower council tax and responsibilities (social care moved to the NHS in the local area), basically just doing commercial planning and keeping the roads, parks clean/good repair and rubbish collection, that should be worth about a £100 a year in council tax.

  • John Marriott 4th Jun '20 - 10:14am

    *The sad death of Local Government?

    I spent thirty consecutive years as a councillor in local government at all levels at one time or another. I believe in local government as I know how much it has done In its various forms for local people, since Gladstone’s last administration created parish councils in 1893. I am appalled at its gradual emasculation over many, many years. I want many of its powers restored. I want its structure and finance reformed. Many people laughed when Barnet Council produced its ‘Graph of Doom’ a few years ago. They’re surely not laughing now. It would appear that, with most power resting in Parliament, even that power is now being hoovered up by an administration elected on around 43% of the popular vote. Wake up, people. It doesn’t have to be like this!

    *Far right + far left + Putin = the death of democracy?

    Events in Washington DC and elsewhere in the USA illustrate what an unequal society it is. One of my relations over there, a resident of DC currently with her recently widowed mother in Michigan, tells me that one of her black friends back the federal capital has heard rumours that the far right and far left have got together to turn what started as peaceful protests into orgies of looting and arson. Helping in this coordination are forces that appear to come from Russia. Food for thought, especially as there are rumours that, when Brexit is done, Cummings might be moving east, where is career apparently began. Or are these both just conspiracy theories?

  • I do so agree with John Marriott. Like him I served for many years in local government and saw the good it could achieve when well run. It has been starved of resources ever since Thatcher’s days and is now a thin shadow of its former self…… the last national champion it had surprisingly enough, was John Prescott.

    As to Mr West, a simple question. Have you ever served as an elected Councillor or as a local government employee ? I suspect not, though you are quite full of what you would probably regard as (your own) expert opinion.

  • The Tories have been slowly destroying local govnt for years.Never liked it cos it takes power away from them and their ideology.Keep the subjects (we are subjects of the Queen NOT citizens) subservient. Local govnt means LOCAL NOT NATIONAL and under govnt control.By doing things slowly people do not notice the losses to their freedoms.
    Cummings did run !? an airline in Russia that did not succeed will have picked up some aspects of Russian society. Putin being an ex KGB agent can yearn for ‘defeat’ of the West to allow Russia to rise in influence. Johnson and his Russian papers?A link?
    Oligarchs and our own ‘home grown millionaires’ not wanting change when it stops them from making money. German businessmen in the 1930s thought they could control Hitler and supported him. Look how that turned out.
    It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in the US the extreme left and right will work together to achieve their aims.Eventually one would become stronger and be in charge .A lot of what is happening today ,to me, seems to have echo’s of the 1930’s. A pandemic not only takes peoples minds off other events but also helps ‘the forces of evel’ to exploit the situation.It can also be used by people (Mogg?) who yearns for”the olden days’ and prefers the status quo and ability to make money to change for a better future.
    Conspiracy theories and legends do have grains of truth in them.

  • David Rogers 4th Jun '20 - 11:40am

    David Raw and John Marriott (first para above at least!) are so right about what local government has achieved in the past, and the potential it has to do likewise in future. We should remember for instance that public health measures, e.g. water supply and sewerage, started in local government – and are now back there where they belong after a 40-year exile in the NHS! Mr. Raw is also correct about resources, whether that be standard spending assessments, rate capping (which of course became council tax capping), the nationalisation of business rates by a Thatcher government – or more recent so-called austerity measures. As a party of devolution and local decision-making, we should champion those long-lost rights of cities and counties, towns and parishes, to shape our local communities. To do this effectively sustainable income sources in the shape of the local tax base combined with certain charges for some services are of course required. The detail of what that should look like remains a key area of debate, but to me the principle is clear.

  • John Marriott 4th Jun '20 - 2:34pm

    @Frank West
    Your rather sarcastic comments about Local Government are, I would imagine, shared by many people. I have to say that you are not entirely incorrect. Let me make it clear that what I am about to say applies only to councils in England. The other nations of the UK have, in my opinion, a far more developed, sophisticated and effective system of governance, often more in tune with the requirements of their citizens.

    The reason why local government, both its employees and its elected representatives, is held in such low esteem by large sections of the public is a result of its gradual emasculation at the hands of successive local governments over many years. Low turnouts in local elections reflect the importance, or rather lack of importance that many people place on it. It just doesn’t feature in many of their lives.

    While the public’s lack of interest can also be reflected bybtye calibre of many councillors, I would not necessarily wish to tar officers and employees with the same brush. In my thirty years as a councillor I have worked with individuals, whose ability would not make them out of place in the highest echelons of the civil service, although some people might argue that this isn’t putting the bar very high!
    As no qualification is required to become a councillor, it used to be very revealing to see how many new recruits used to struggle to get their heads around law and custom and practice. As many of them hardly opened their mouths at committee meetings but just toed the party line I suppose it didn’t really matter.

    What tended to happen, from my experience, was that when the cabinet system came in under the last Labour government, the cream in the ruling group rapidly rose to the top, although, as far as Lincolnshire was concerned, there weren’t that many gold tops, just enough with the nous and sufficient brain cells to cope with their portfolios, some greatly assisted by officers, who knew their business.

    Now, if you want effective local government, give it the tools to do the job. Bring in Unitary Authorities with enhanced powers and you might get an improvement in the calibre of people prepared to come forward for election. Also, if you introduce a fairer voting system and pay enough so that councils are not peopled by retirees or rich business people, you might get people, who can think on their feet and, above all, outside the box.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '20 - 10:51am

    Alok Sharma MP has announced that his test was negative (Source BBC tv).

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '20 - 11:01am

    Martin 4th Jun ’20 – 10:28am
    Let’s have a referendum on nurses pay.

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