The government must fund local councils properly for the first time in more than a decade in order to keep communities safe and rebuild the country after the pandemic.
Unless ministers fix the current funding shortfall – estimated to be in the region of £10bn – there could be tens of thousands of job losses and catastrophic cuts to local services in England alone.
Many of the people providing essential services throughout the pandemic – including social care, waste collection and environmental health workers – could soon be out of work, despite councils having a central role in keeping people safe in the months ahead.
The union has analysed the impact of the £10bn ’funding gap’ for 2020/21, which amounts to a 21% reduction in spending compared to the previous financial year (2019/20).
If cuts were to be applied equally across all services, it would mean £1.9bn slashed from children’s social care spending, £1.1bn from environmental services and £3.5bn from adult social care –an area already in crisis before the coronavirus outbreak.
UNISON says a reduction of that magnitude could lead to the loss of 51,000 children’s social workers, 141,000 adult care workers, and almost 46,000 refuse collectors.
If social care – which accounts for more than half of local authority spending – and public health were to be protected from funding cuts, it would mean the budget for every other council function such as roads, housing, planning and environmental services would need to be cut by 54%, says UNISON.
The union is calling on ministers to find additional resources for councils to avoid devastating harm to services that have already suffered ten years of budget cuts.
The government must also provide full compensation not only for the extra costs caused by dealing with Covid-19, including lost income from taxes, fees and charges, says UNISON. And a sustainable future funding system has to be put in place to allow councils to be rebuilt after years of cuts.
UNISON head of local government Jon Richards said: “Councils were already cash strapped before the coronavirus. But the extra responsibilities caused by the pandemic have stretched their resources even thinner. “Local authorities are the key to every community, with staff delivering vital services. Local government must have the money it needs, especially as demands on local services are likely to rise. “The money pledged by ministers so far is a drop in the ocean. Councils need the full support of government if communities are to avoid serious harm.”
Plymouth in UNISON Branch Secretary Kevin Treweeks said “Cuts on this scale is comparable with what we have had to soak up over the last ten years. It simply can’t be allowed to happen. The Government need to stop the drip drip announcements and re-announcements of bits of money here and there and draw up a sustainable solution. These are the jobs that can shield us, not just from a new wave of Covid19 but the next recession.”
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