Consumed by Brexit, the government is failing to run the country and leaving us in limbo, Southwark Council’s finance head has warned, saying she has no idea how much cash for adult social care they will get in the next year.
Since the coalition government’s austerity drive, Southwark has suffered some of the most brutal cuts in funding – a combined total of £146 million since 2011 – softened in part by the borough’s buoyant economy and the healthy business rates it brings.
Now the council faces twin challenges; the very real possibility of recession in the event of no-deal, and the constant uncertainty in central government funding as its spending review is continually delayed.
Already, the council says the budget gap for 2019-21 is anywhere from £4 million to £32 million depending on a ‘range of scenarios’.
Cllr Victoria Mills (pictured), the cabinet member for finance, Brexit and performance, told the News: “It is very difficult for us to plan ahead because we don’t have clarity on funding.
“The government is so consumed by Brexit that the spending review hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to soon.
“We want to see the next 2-3 years ahead and what we can expect to get, but we don’t even have a good idea of what is coming in the next year.
“Usually we’d have at least some indication of funding for several years ahead but there’s a range of grants where we don’t even know if they’ll entirely cease.
“That’s unprecedented, and some are in areas that are in absolute crisis, including special needs education and adult social care.”
In a volte-face, Southwark’s Labour-run administration did eventually come out in support of remain and a people’s vote on a final deal.
But regardless of whether the council is remain or leave, the biggest thing it needs is certainty, she says, and the government has pick up the reigns: “The government has to start running the country on a daily basis.
“My personal message would be that it’s clear that this madness has gone on for long enough – it’s been three years of total failure.”
The announcement that £20 million of cash will be split between all 343 local authorities as part of the ‘Brexit war chest’ is unlikely to appease Southwark, which has already had to find £2 million for a range of Brexit-related costs.
And there are the EU-funded projects across London, estimated total some £70 million, also currently up in the air.