I recently spoke in parliament about the need to make sure our local authorities, schools, fire and other services are properly funded in order to keep everyone safe and avoid another tragedy like Grenfell Towers.
Watch the video HERE.
Schools in Norwich are suffering particularly badly from Government cuts and are threatened with the worst settlement in Norfolk under the proposed funding formula, although we are waiting to find out whether and how that will ever be implemented. I asked the minister to tell us whether any central funding will be made available for essential safety work, so that those schools do not face yet more unfunded costs from the Government.
I also discuss how local authorities are being subjected to changes in funding and changes to their ways of working which could result in some councils making compromises on safety measures. Notably, I talk about the the Government’s mandatory 1% rent reduction, which reduces Norwich City Council's ability to repair and improve its ageing housing stock by an average of £7.4 million a year. This leaves less to invest in our council housing stock, and council activities such as the daily safety checks carried out on our high-rise blocks are put at risk. In Norwich, we are fortunate enough to have a Labour-run city council that makes sure that those safety checks happen but, like many other local authorities, they are still coming up against the physical limits of what it can do with its resources, which have been cut year after year by this Government.
Finally, it is, as ever, paramount that our fire service is properly funded so it can maintain safe standards. Full-time firefighters earn less than £30,000 a year, so The Labour Party welcomes the fact that the 1% cap was not imposed on their new pay offer. But given that there has been no confirmation of how this will be funded, firefighters are concerned that the money will come from the service itself. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul will not improve anyone’s safety. The Government must understand that the ongoing funding cuts to our institutions and to those who work so hard for them are critical parts of the Grenfell story. Reversing them is essential to preventing another tragedy.