Pledge 5 | An end to austerity and cuts in local services

The impact of austerity

Austerity has done huge damage to our local communities. Government has reduced Tunbridge Wells’ central grant to zero whilst pressure on services has continued to increase. Our libraries, community centres, Sure Start centres and funding for Voluntary and Community sector organisations are all under threat and face an uncertain future. Huge cuts in police funding have resulted in fewer officers in Kent, communities which are less safe than they used to be and rising crime and anti-social behaviour. The Conservatives have undone many of the significant achievements of the 1997 – 2010 Labour Government. They are presiding over rising poverty, homelessness and insecure work. Austerity continues and the cohesion of our local communities are under threat. Nationally, Labour offers an end to austerity and will re-invest in those areas that have been cut by the Conservatives.

Protecting vital services

Labour will continue to oppose cuts to vital preventive and community services. We call on government to fund local government properly and to genuinely bring an end to austerity. Councils should be prevented from disinvesting in services as a forerunner to closing libraries and should place greater value on the role that local community and Sure Start centres play to enhance the quality of life of residents and give children the best start in life. We will stand up for residents against cuts such as those proposed for Age UK Tunbridge Wells which will leave many older people without vital support services. Many community based services are closing including GP surgeries and pre-schools and residents are having to travel to access such services outside of their local community at high cost.

Universal Credit and poverty

Residents are increasingly being hit by the impact of welfare reforms, freezes in Local Housing Allowances and now the roll-out of Universal Credit in Tunbridge Wells. Universal Credit, which combines six existing working age benefits, is now live in the Borough. Areas which have had UC for a while have seen huge rises in demand for access to Foodbanks, rent arrears, access to advice services such as Citizens Advice Bureau and increasingly evidence of rising homelessness linked to UC. Labour will support residents facing such challenges and campaign for changes to Universal Credit and other means tested benefits so that support not sanctions are provided. In-work poverty is a hidden epidemic in the Borough which has grown in recent years. The Conservatives offer no solutions to families who work hard but still don’t earn enough to provide a good standard of living for their family.

Building an inclusive economy

Development and regeneration should be assessed on the impact to wellbeing and inclusivity as well as economic growth. Growth should provide benefits to all residents not just a few property developers and associates. We need to build an inclusive economy where the contribution of all is valued and we protect the cohesion and diversity of the area. Long standing residents should not be pushed out of their communities just to make way for wealthier people moving in.

Accountability

We will hold Conservative decision makers to account for the damaging impact of their policies. We will stand up for public services and scrutinise Conservative budget plans, ensuring that grants that fund vital local services through VCS organisations are prioritised and protected. At a national level a Labour government will end austerity and provide the investment our residents expect to develop strong, healthy and inclusive communities.

NEXT | PLEDGE 6 | Open and transparent community led decision making