• It’s budget day at Devon County Council… Here’s my speech…

    18th February 2021 | News | Claire
  • This is the eleventh year of austerity.

    And the second year of no government funding cuts.

    That’s not because austerity is over it’s because there is nothing left to cut.

    Because central government ministers have now removed the revenue support grant in its entirety.

    Total reductions to budgets since 2010, is over £280million.

    Core funding to DCC has reduced by 72% in real terms.

    So services are STILL having to be slashed.

    This council is now reliant only on business rates, council tax revenue and any ad hoc funding that ministers casually toss in our direction, meaning we must now apply via a bidding process for a fraction of the funding that was once allocated to us for services for our residents, through the government grant.

    Council tax is set to increase yet again, by an even higher percentage this year – 4.99 per cent – once again to help finance an adult social care situation that sinks further into crisis every single year.

    We now have a truly reprehensible situation where Devon’s council tax has rocketed by almost 30 per cent in just six years, as this council attempts to draw in a bit more money to pay for dwindling services.

    The government’s poor track record of dealing with covid-19 pandemic mean that hardship has risen locally.

    One in eight Devon residents are now considered to experience fuel poverty. And there has been an increasing number of people accessing emergency food supplies.

    We don’t just have foodbanks anymore. We also have community larders where people in food hardship can turn up and pick up either a meal or ingredients.

    Who would have thought such a thing was possible just a decade ago.

    Over a quarter of Devon’s population is over 65. One in five people aged 16-64 are disabled or living with a long-term health condition impacting the ability to work. And this doesn’t take into account the huge job losses caused by the pandemic. Or more specifically this government’s utter failure to deal with the pandemic.

    Around one in ten people now provide unpaid care – a huge increase by half to around 130,000 Devon carers since the pandemic began.

    Covid-19 has had a significant impact on people’s financial, mental and physical health.

    All of those people need MORE services, better funded services, yet our services have never been more stretched. At a time when there has never been less certainty about the future of our funding.

    But this government is also falling short of providing councils with enough funding to cope with these immense demands triggered by Covid-19:

    According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, in the last financial year, only 23% directors of adult social care were fully confident their budget was sufficient to meet statutory duties.

    BUT for the financial year starting in April, however, JUST TWO PER CENT of directors of adult social care were confident their budget was going to be sufficient to meet statutory duties. That’s the basic level of services required by law.

    Page 3 to 4 of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny budget papers states: “…. Significant unknown risks remain in respect of the cost of future pandemic response measures, ensuring the ongoing viability, sustainability of the independent care sector, and sufficiency of the government covid response funding.”

    The government’s historical cuts to social care in particular continually place this council in an ever increasing risky financial position.

    The market’s volatility in terms of increasing care home costs, the viability of providers, even fewer paid carer staff to draw from as Brexit causes the number of EU workers leaving the country and the government’s endless delay on adult social care reform has meant significant and increased suffering for the people of Devon.

    The PM has reneged on his own promise to address the increasingly urgent crisis in adult social care, in the forthcoming NHS Bill.

    How can ministers hold their heads up in public when they have neglected one of the most urgent issues facing the people of this country?

    How is it STILL possible to have treatment free at the point of delivery if you have cancer, yet lose your house paying for care if you have dementia?

    It’s just appalling and inexcusable.

    Over the years we have seen closures of residential care homes, children’s homes, children’s centres, youth centres and day centres, library services reduced, support for the elderly slashed, support for vulnerable children slashed, support for disabled people slashed, support for unpaid carers slashed, potholes cratering our roads and pretty much no budget to do anything at all, other than provide the most basic of services.

    Yet our economy remains the sixth largest in the world.

    Devon residents deserve so much better.

    Pic: Speaking at a past county council budget meeting, in the chamber. Pre-pandemic.