Today (Tuesday 9 February 2021) at Portsmouth City Council’s budget meeting, local Labour councillors set out their ambitious plans to ensure a strong recovery for our city from the pandemic.
Costed proposals in the Group’s amendment would secure the economic recovery, strengthen our communities, put trust back in our council to deliver local services, and deliver an ambitious greener and cleaner future.
Laying the blame on the tough choices the council had to make as a result of the Conservative’s decisions in Westminster, Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Group Leader said: “The Government made a choice to kick the can down the road and hit many already struggling families with a 5% council tax rise.
I pushed for Government to properly fund councils, including our own, so we wouldn’t be faced with this tough choice today, but sadly, yet again, Ministers failed to listen and do what is right for the people of Portsmouth.
So yet again, we are left with more of the same – a pay more, get less approach from this Tory government”.
Last March, as the country went into lockdown, the Tory Secretary of State made a commitment to fund councils to do what was necessary to get communities through this crisis. But, just two months later, he broke that promise.
On this the Labour Group Leader said: “So if we are to build back greener and better and transform our local public services, funding should be coming from central government, not asking residents to pick up the bill.
We cannot expect to emerge stronger from this pandemic if central government is not willing to do both the economically and morally right thing, by issuing a proper funding settlement that will address the problems of this decade of Tory and Lib Dem decline to our local public services, build back better and bring the future prosperity for Portsmouth we all want to see”.
Labour’s Prioritising Portsmouth amendments put before the Council wanted to ensure a ‘budget which benefits every community, in every corner of our city: a budget which recognises the financial constraints of the authority, the challenges city families now face and the impact of ten years of Tory and Lib Dem austerity on our communities’ the Group’s proposals stated.
By cutting management and democratic overheads, smarter use of public assets and bringing services back in-house, Labour would save money to fund the delivery of frontline services and help ensure a strong recovery from the pandemic.
On this, Stephen Morgan MP said: “We’ve listened to the views of frontline staff, trade unions and their representatives and recognise that after decades of outsourcing in local government, with private companies failing to uphold their contracts to deliver services, standards deteriorating and the taxpayer picking up the bill, enough is enough.
Insourcing the delivery of key public services improve services, saves taxpayers’ money, increases democratic accountability of public services and will ensure all staff members are paid and supported fairly with better terms and conditions.
People are more important than profit, and our council services belong to local people. That is why the inhouse delivery of local services, delivered by the public sector, is the default option for this Labour Group
This ambition will boost our city’s economy at time of recovery, by spending taxpayers’ money on local suppliers and local workers, giving power back to our communities and prioritising Portsmouth”.
Labour’s practical proposals included:
- Reversing the cuts of £150k to social care provision at Shearwater
- Forgotten High Streets Regeneration Fund £750k
- Living Streets Fund £750k
- Citywide Carbon Audit and Citizens Assembly on Climate Change £100k
- Programme to tackle Digital Poverty £230k
- Investment in Mental Health Services £200k
Concluding the contribution from Labour, Stephen Morgan MP added: “These are the Labour Group’s budget proposals. Prioritising Portsmouth over short-termism.
Whilst others will sit back and let local people pay more, but get less, our amendment delivers a strong recovery for our city from this pandemic.
I urge all Members to put party politics to one side, and support our proposals today, to prioritise our city and ensure Portsmouth’s recovery reaches every community, in every corner of our city.
We must ensure no one, is left behind, as our city builds back better”.
Labour’s proposals were regrettably voted down by the Lib Dems and Tories. The Group have vowed to continue to campaign on these important issues for the people of Portsmouth.