York Council leader urges Sir Keir Starmer to fund local authorities differently if he wins power

The leader of the City of York Council has urged Sir Keir Starmer to change the way local authorities are funded if Labour wins power next year.

Coun Claire Douglas, who has led the council in York since May, wants her party’s leader to help councils have more control over their spending. York is the worst-funded local authority in England and its core spending power per dwelling is just £1,505.88, according to government data. The median in England is £1,885.14.

“Yeah, absolutely,” coun Douglas said on whether she’d like to see a Labour government address this issue. “It just can’t go on like this. So, in York for example our spending power since 2010 has reduced by 40 per cent.”

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Coun Douglas said rising costs, inflation, demands on services and cuts in central government have contributed to this.

Claire Douglas and Sir Keir Starmer.Claire Douglas and Sir Keir Starmer.
Claire Douglas and Sir Keir Starmer.

“It puts a huge burden on the council taxpayer and the business rates payer,” she added. “Councils literally have to find their own ways of raising revenue and council tax is not a progressive tax.

“It’s inherently unfair in my view and people are generally shocked when I say to them that your council tax is paying to look after our vulnerable adults through adult social care and our most vulnerable children through children’s social services.

“Roughly 60p in every £1 goes towards that from their council tax and very small amounts, pennies relatively speaking, goes towards our roads or bin collections, libraries, leisure facilities, whatever else it is.

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“We certainly need more money coming into local authorities to support those core statutory services, adult social care – we know that system’s broken – and children’s services. If that isn’t sorted out then we’re in big trouble.

“I really hope that a Labour government will look at that because they do understand the challenges that we’ve got.

“But on the other hand, they’re absolutely committed to fiscal responsibility, managing the nation’s books, so we’ll have to see.”

Sir Keir Starmer commissioned a report on constitutional reform in 2022, which was written by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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Reflecting on the report, the Institute for Government wrote: “Where the report offers more fundamental change is in relation to the funding of local government, especially the commitments to three-year block grants and to wind down competitive funding arrangements. This represents a major change that will strengthen the autonomy of local institutions.”