Austerity in England Takes Its Toll: Councils Announce Plans to Increase Taxes

Austerity in England Takes Its Toll: Councils Announce Plans to Increase Taxes
The recent study shows that almost all councils in England will raise council tax by April. More than half of councils plan to increase the tax over 2.75 percent, with the maximum threshold legally allowed being 2.99 percent. However, those, who think that higher taxes will translate in improved social services, are set to be disappointed, experts warn. Councils in England are dealing with gross shortages of funding, which leads to deterioration of municipal facilities such as libraries, recycling and roads to name a few.

The austerity policy in England is lasting for eight years now, and councils say it is increasingly taking its toll on social services for the population. During these years, government funding to councils was cut by 40 percent. Cutbacks to certain services – for example, pothole repair or road maintenance – turn out to cause particular public outrage. Just last week, Somerset councils were flooded with complaints after snow-blanketed roads caused several accidents.

Some councils say they have now reached the point, when delivering even the basic, minimum social services is problematic. An increasing number of councils are increasingly concerned with the prospect of legal issues with citizens. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of councils – as much as 80 percent, in fact – say the current local government model is not sustainable. Amidst Brexit uncertainty, high-quality social services are more important than ever, experts say, but chronic lack of funding is making them all but impossible.

About one-third of councils across the country announced their plans to roll back parts of their adult social care programs, children’s care and support for people with special needs and disabilities. Libraries, parks maintenance and waste collection will not be spared, either. At the same time, councils will be raising fees for virtually all remaining services.

A government spokesperson said in a statement that the government is planning to provide over 90 million pounds to local councils over the next years, including some funding already this year. Experts say the need for social services has grown exponentially over the past decade, but the measures, taken to address it, were far from adequate. Austerity will still define the quality of living in the country, now more than ever with Brexit uncertainty looming ahead.

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