Councils ‘pushed to an impossible situation’ by Government

The Chancellor, George Osbourne
The Chancellor, George Osbourne

Last week MPs returned to Westminster for the beginning of a new year in Parliament so it’s back to my usual routine of travelling down to London every week.

Getting on the train it strikes me – and other rail commuters – that the cost of travel on our railways has gone up again. Hard working commuters are now paying 25% more for their train fares under the Tories, because of yet another year of rail fare hikes came into force.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Passengers from Lancaster have been hit again and again by eye‐watering rail fare rises, far outstripping any increase in most people’s pay packets. For many people here, travelling by train isn’t a luxury, it’s how they get to work every day. Figures show the cost of an annual season ticket from Lancaster to Barrow-in-Furness has risen by £492, or 24%, since 2010 and for a Lancaster to Bolton it’s up 25% by £568.

Labour’s policy is to bring the railways into public ownership so they can be run for passengers not profit. That means fairer fares, investment in a 21st century railway and giving passengers a stronger voice.

Turning to local services, I have had a full mail bag about threats to funding for local services. I don’t want to see us lose any services, be that the museum, a library or the social services. These cuts come from George Osborne’s decision to axe the central government grant to councils over the next four years which amounts to a £6.1bn cut by 2019/20. Local government is already under enormous pressure. This cut will hit the poorest parts of the country hardest, where there are fewer businesses and taxpayers to make up for lost Whitehall grants.

Cuts to adult social care will mean more older people will need hospital and emergency care, putting our health services under additional strain. The Tories have missed a major opportunity to protect community services, improve people’s quality of life and protect the most vulnerable.

I am continuing to talk with Lancashire County Council to seek to find solutions for these services and won’t be giving up. But I am clear the council has been pushed into an impossible situation by the government.