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Budget setting: we must campaign for a Labour government and take measures to protect services now

In my speech last night at full council I focused on the government’s abandonment of adult social care and how we are responding in Reading.  If you click on the link you can watch all of our speeches.Screenshot 2018-03-01 09.28.28.png

The text of my speech is below:

I know no councillor in this room takes pleasure in raising council tax, which we all know affects those on modest incomes far more than the wealthy.

But as Cllr Stevens has acknoledged if we wish to keep elderly and disabled people safe this is the only option the government has given us.  Indeed it doesn’t even cover half of the pressure on services much less replace our vanishing government grant.
The Labour group cannot sit idly by while the government has abdicated its responsibility.  Indeed since we set our budget last year they have ditched what remained of cross-party consensus on social care.  To the dismay of Conservatives in local government they scrapped the Dilnot proposals in their much derided manifesto.  So appalling indeed the so-called dementia tax was a door step issue for all of us campaigning last year.
We are now waiting for yet another green paper.  Last week I met with our shadow minister Barbara Keeley to discuss Labour’s response to it.  She was clear Labour is ready to respond when the government has some serious proposals but she will continue to oppose their recklessness with social care.  She will also work with us in local government to develop our policy on the national care service ready for when Labour return to power.  A day that can’t come soon enough for our NHS and social care:  this is even clearer than it was a year ago. 
Cllr Stevens may see some hope that national government will see sense.  I see none: we are instead faced with another year where we are desperately making savings to continue to deliver for our communities and I would like to thank our very dedicated council staff particularly in adult social care at all levels who are making this work.  They have made a real difference every day and continue to do so every day to elderly and disabled people in our town who need support.
They are delivering our commitment to the UNISON Ethical Care Charter ensuring the living wage for low paid care workers – many of them women – who are providing dignified care for those that need it.
We are continuing our positive working with doctors and our NHS while resisting privatisation.
And every single inspection from the Care Quality Commission of our council’s much valued in house services has been rated good.
We are rightly proud of those services and we’re rightly proud of our staff and I think we’re proud of protecting Reading from government cuts.
None of us want to throw that out and as the union representatives, members of the public, and councilors in this room know I’m always open and we’re all always open for ideas on how we can keep supporting elderly and disabled residents while making the savings we need to, to balance the budget.
In the absence of this from the opposition parties tonight I think the answer is we have to keep campaigning for a Labour government take measures now to ensure that Reading has a local government worthy of the name to save when we do.
I believe our residents deserve no less, I hope you all agree.

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