3 Mar 2016

Statement on Wirral Council Budget for 2016-17

Tory assault on local government is terrifying.

The cabinet report to this budget outlines the government's continued and intensified attack on local government and the blatant unfairness in how councils like Wirral are targeted. The Green Party concurs with that view.

Specifically we have a government which, this year, that can only extract £12 million in tax from the world's largest corporation (Apple) while Wirral sees its funding slump by a further £28 million.

A government that brags about Google's 10 year tax contribution of just £130 million while, in just half that time, Wirral has lost over £150 million.

Clearly this government has no concept of fairness and its policies can only lead to yet more despair and inequality. I echo the calls from Caroline Lucas for a progressive alliance to stop the terrifying prospect of a further decade of Tory rule.

Outsourcing is not the answer

Until then we are faced with making the best of a very bad deal. The Green Party pays tribute to all those council staff who do their best every day to serve the people of Wirral. We recognise that retaining and nurturing in-house talent and experience is vital for the future of public services.

Just yesterday a Guardian investigation showed that in 36% of cases, councils found that delivering services in-house could save more than outsourcing to commercial companies in long-term partnerships. Our own experience in street lighting has shown that outsourcing can lead to a sharp reduction in the quality of service and much higher than expected costs. I hope we will learn from that in future particularly in regard to Girtrell Court.

And when we look at the many service cuts which our grant reduction forces upon us people will, inevitably question our spending priorities. They will, quite rightly, question our levels of executive pay and in-house expenditure be it for furniture, taxi fares or Executive Support Officers. They will question the large sums already devoted to converting farm land and green belt to golf courses and tarmac.

Freezing council tax has played into George Osborne's hands

This time last year I spoke out against accepting government bribes to freeze council tax. The reality is that three years of that policy has significantly eroded our tax base. Had we taken a different path we would not now have to endure the anguish around Girtrell Court and the threats to many other vital services. We could have reversed the unfair imposition of council tax on the very poorest in our borough.

Austerity: there is an alternative.

The Green Party opposes the austerity programme imposed by the Tories and supported in principle by Labour since 2010. We believe that vital public services should be properly funded by ensuring that major corporations and rich individuals pay a fair share of tax, something all political parties should embrace.

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