Since 2013, Nottingham City Council’s main Government funding has been cut by three quarters, from £127 million to £25 million. Even worse, at the same time as the Government have been handing out extra cash to some Tory shires, cities such as Nottingham that cope with high levels of deprivation have been disproportionately hit. For example, in 10 years Surrey gained £19 per household while Nottingham lost £529.
The cuts come at a time when the council faces rising demand for its services, especially adult social care and child protection, and that inevitably means cuts to vital frontline services. Last year the city was forced to cut public health programmes to help people lose weight or stop smoking. It cut youth and play services, and there have been new restrictions on bus passes for disabled people. Fares on supportive buses have increased, and there are higher fees for leisure centres and other services. It is all short-term and self-defeating in the long run, as it will place extra burdens on our NHS, police, and other local services.
One of the most visible changes is the increase in rough sleeping. In 2010, when Labour left government, Nottingham city had an estimated three rough sleepers per night. This year that number has risen to 43. Despite the fantastic work done by the council, it faces an incredible challenge. That is just the most visible element and affects only 5% of the total number of people who need help with housing. In Nottingham, 15 families a week present as homeless. Is that any wonder, when the local government’s housing allowance cap has been frozen since 2016 and will not rise until at least 2020?
The Government say that properties can be found for £42 or £54 per week, but recent research by Advice Nottingham found that the cheapest house was £63 a week—£20 more than the Government claim. For a family of four who need a two-bedroom house, Advice Nottingham found only two homes in the entire city that fell within local housing association rates. Social housing is an ever-rising demand to add to that list.
The cuts keep coming. Nottingham City Council is currently undertaking its budget consultation for this year—I wonder whether the Minister can advise us which vital services he would cut next. I hope that he is listening and will consider the damage that cuts to local government funding have already done and will continue to do to my constituents and my city. It is time for that to change. It cannot go on.