This is my speech from Devon County Council’s Budget full council meeting on Thursday.

What started as a commentary on how austerity is STILL affecting councils and local people, also ended up as a rather scathing response to the general election…

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This is the tenth year of austerity.

But this year there were 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, including this one, is £272million.

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

So services are STILL having to be cut.

This council is now reliant only on business rates, council tax revenue and any ad hoc funding that ministers deign to pass in our direction.

We’re now in the humiliating position of having to go cap in hand to ministers, for the funding that should never have been taken from OUR RESIDENTS in the first place.

Council tax is set to increase again by 3.99 per cent, 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 across Devon’s public sector has rocketed by well over 20 per cent, while each year services have been progressively slashed to pieces.

And all the while earnings stagnate.

 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.

It is an ABHORRENT indictment of the ideological values of the government overseeing the sixth largest economy in the world…………..

There are cuts across all services, but as a member of Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee this is where my focus lies….

“This is a really tight budget and it’s getting harder to find savings. This is the hardest one so far.”

The words of Jennie Stephens, chief officer for adult care and health.

So although we have a 10 per cent increase for adult social care this year because of the Better Care Fund and ad hoc government grants, a decade of austerity has meant that significant service cuts still have to be made.

Including:

  • that around 70 fewer Devon people will be able to access daycare
  • Over 100 fewer people will receive paid personal care. At a time when unpaid carers are finding times increasingly tough
  • 140 fewer people will receive support for alcohol addictions

 

There’s a long list of risks in the budget assessment, relating to the shortage of staffing and the increasing cost of and demand for, services.

The possibility of a Brexit no deal is described as a “major risk” to workforce in the budget risk assessment, as is a points based immigration system.

The council’s official risk register also records the council’s ability to meet its statutory requirement for nursing care, personal care and demand for working aged adults, as “high” or “very high.”

So not only has this government financially crippled councils and the rest of the public sector, but its hardline, ideological, right wing politics, has put at risk the VERY EXISTENCE the statutory services that this council must legally provide.

As a result thousands of Devon people have been plunged into hardship, struggling to manage without the services that were once available to support them.

And every day we’re lied to by ministers.

Lied to about funding, lied to about responsibility, lied to about Brexit, lied to about immigration and lied to about workforce.

The citizens of this country have been enmeshed in a tissue of lies for so long, it’s virtually impossible for many people to determine the truth anymore.

My heart sank deeply in the early hours of 13 December.

Not just because I wasn’t elected as East Devon’s MP.

But because an amoral government, that has NO INTEREST whatsoever in providing care for its citizens, a prime minster who cares about nothing except the retention of power, has been elected with a huge majority.

It’s a disaster. And I PASSIONATELY wish it wasn’t so.

But that’s the reality. And all I can do. Just like everyone else as despondent as I am about the election, is to carry on.

We must continue to hold local MPs to account BUT very importantly….

We must continue to SEEK the truth and PRESENT that truth to local people.

Here’s the full webcast …. https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/455417