Responding to the Left Behind Neighborhoods APPG‘s inquiry into levelling up, Cllr Nicolas Heslop, Chair of South East Councils said:
“We hear about the ‘affluent’ South East in the headlines – despite that the relative affluence of local residents does not always translate into council spending power as one might think.
The stereotype of the South East as a land of rolling green pastures does not reflect the reality local authorities deal with every day. The reality is that the South East has some of the most deprived communities in England, yet at the same time, it has one of the highest relative costs of living.
Local authorities in our regions are dealing with a unique combination of intersecting challenges – the high cost of living, shortages in skills, and as a hub for international trade and travel, the impact of Covid-19 in coastal areas and airport towns was particularly devastating.
And Council budgets are at breaking point. It’s time to recognise that the funding model for English Local Government is broken.
Only a precious few can keep track of the true number of funding pots, whilst our members have seen tens of thousands of pounds wasted on rejected competitive bids, which was once again confirmed to be the case following last week’s second round of levelling up funding allocations.
Since Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer unveiled the “Take Back Control Bill” council leaders have been asking themselves… is this really going to bring the change we need, or are we going to see another decade of flip-flopping around the elephant in the room?
Fixing this broken system is the transformational improvement we need to empower local authorities to deliver on the principles of levelling up in the long term.
It’s time to bring an end to local authorities having no choice, but to beg for money from Westminster.”
Our full response to this inquiry can be accessed here.