Council leader demands government ends policy which is forcing him to make £70m worth of cuts

Barking & Dagenham council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell. Pic: Ken Mears

Barking & Dagenham council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell. Pic: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The leader of Barking and Dagenham Council has demanded the government end its “catastrophic” austerity policy.

Councillor Darren Rodwell is one of 23 UK council leaders who signed an open letter which said local authorities could not go on providing “essential services” if budgets continued to be slashed.

The “Councils against Austerity” campaign was launched on Monday at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

An estimated £5.8billion has been cut from council budgets since 2010, it claimed.

In 2015 Mr Rodwell’s cabinet agreed to almost half its expenditure from £150million to £80m by 2020.

In its letter to Whitehall chiefs the campaign stated: “We call upon the government to recognise the catastrophic impact which eight years of uninterrupted austerity has had on local government.

“Budget restrictions have meant losses of almost 50 per cent for councils across the country.

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“This has had disastrous knock-on impacts for services, as the stop-gaps that were once in place to prevent destitution have been stripped back.

“Already, a number of councils have cut their services to a statutory minimum, with more likely to follow in the coming months and years.”

The group calling on the government to allow “more freedom for local authorities to set taxes, retain local revenue and allow the proceeds of growth to be kept locally.”

It added: “We need movement away from funding via ring-fenced grants, and towards allowing more discretion and local democratic oversight over spending by local authorities.”