CABINET CALL: A weekly column written by members of South Holland District Council’s Cabinet. This week with: Leader, Coun Gary Porter
I watched the Chancellor’s budget announcement with interest last week and now that the dust has settled, I still think it was a bit of a mixed bag.
There were some positives – I have long since called for councils to be given greater freedom to borrow to build new homes and the budget took a step towards this by lifting the housing borrowing cap for some councils, although this can only be considered a small first step.
You don’t need me to tell you about the urgent need to build more new affordable houses, it is a major pressing issue both nationally and locally.
In South Holland we have been doing this and been proactive - we set up our own housing company Welland Homes Ltd to provide quality rented accommodation and we are currently looking at opportunities for more social rent affordable housing.
For years I was told that councils couldn’t build homes and one of my proudest achievements as leader of SHDC was proving that notion wrong.
There was also some positive movement on the way Universal Credit is going to be implemented, making it less likely that new claimants will be placed in an intolerable financial position.
On the downside, there was no announcement about extra funding for social care or children’s services.
The money local government has to provide services is running out fast and councils face an overall £5.8billion funding gap in just two years.
The Government needs to use the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement to set out its plans for how it will fund local services both now and in the future.
As I have previously said, local government as a whole must be able to keep every penny of Business Rates we collect rather than paying half of it to the treasury, so that we can plug the funding gap.
We also need a fairer system of distributing funding between councils. It can’t be right that our residents are subsidising people in other parts of the country.
We have already started campaigning for Fairer Funding in Lincolnshire and at South Holland we have also been actively working to find ways of generating our own income to preserve frontline services.
A good example of this will be obvious to anyone who has visited our offices in Priory Road recently. You will have seen building work is now under way to prepare new offices for the Department of Work and Pensions, who will be running their Job Centre Plus Service from here next spring.