The respected cross-party Public Accounts Committee cites a lack of contingency planning; uncertainty over funding; a reluctance to address long-term challenges, like social care, that left some councils on the brink of bankruptcy before the pandemic and a need for the MHCLG to “be a better champion for local government within Whitehall”.
And while the report does, in fairness, acknowledge how the department did act to prevent an even greater financial calamity, it warns that families will be paying for more council tax in return for diminished services – a ‘double whammy’ – when taxpayers should be expecting ‘more for less’ from town halls.
Regrettably, this is to be expected from Mr Jenrick, and those of his colleagues, who still pay ‘lip service’ to the issue of devolution because the London Government is intent on retaining all of the powers – and none of the responsibility – when it comes to policy-making and the distribution of funding.
Not only does this explain why the One Yorkshire governance model, which would have seen this county pool its colllective expertise for the greater good, was resisted so fiercely by Mr Jenrick, but it does a disservice to all those council officials who care passionately about their communities and find their work obstructed by the Minister’s daily diktats.
As such, Mr Jenrick should recognise that many of those leading our councils rank amongst the most able and agile public servants in local – and national – government and, in turn, provide them a degree of certainty of funding so they can get on with what they do best; serving the people.
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