MPs call on Theresa May to leave ‘parting gift’ for children’s services

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, is one of sixty-five MPs and councillors – representing areas that have faced some of the deepest cuts to local government funding in the country – that have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, calling for urgent investment in young people.

The letter – which was hand-delivered to Downing Street today and signed by MPs and councillors from across England – claimed those from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular were paying a heavy price for austerity and demanded that Theresa May use her last weeks in office to leave a parting gift for children’s services.

The event – spearheaded by SIGOMA (the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities) – was attended by key Shadow Cabinet member Andrew Gwynne along with a number of opposition MPs. Additional signatories to the letter include heavyweight Labour figures Hilary Benn, Angela Rayner and Mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis.

The letter was delivered at the height of exam season for tens of thousands of teenagers, highlighting that many children will have been unable to access libraries and youth centres in preparation for GCSEs and A-Level exams – due to severe cuts to these vital support services and over 1,400 closures nationwide.

In doing so, signatories are urging the Prime Minister to address the £8billion funding gap which councils continue to face by 2025, and to use her remaining time in office to deliver a parting gift aimed at supporting social mobility, which Theresa May has been reportedly considering.

MPs from SIGOMA areas represent some of the most deprived communities in the UK. In these constituencies, the effect of cuts to council services has meant many councils have had no choice but to cut services at every level, including libraries, youth services and community centres.

The letter comes in response to wider pressure that central Government is putting on local councils to deliver vital services without adequate funding, as a result of cuts. Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, Chair of SIGOMA, the voice of England’s towns and cities – who was also in attendance on the walk – said:

‘The cuts have been unfairly applied to local government for years, with those representing the poorest communities facing cuts twice as deep as those serving the most affluent areas. We are marching to Downing Street today to highlight the severe impacts austerity is having on some of the most vulnerable in society, taking opportunities away from those that need them most. We urge the Prime Minister to use her remaining time in office to leave a parting gift of £3.1billion to plug the existing funding gap in children’s services and to give council leaders the flexibility to invest in social mobility. Young people must no longer pay the price for austerity and now is the time to cut the cuts.

‘This cause has attracted support from around the country. Week after week this year we have heard stories and reports about the impact of deprivation on the life chances of young people. The Prime Minister has the chance to be remembered for something other than the divisive topic of Brexit but she must act now.’

Catherine McKinnell MP said:

‘It’s clear that young people across the North East have paid a very heavy price for the Government’s ongoing and seemingly endless austerity measures.

 ‘Almost a decade of devastating cuts to local councils have seen funding for vital children’s services fall by almost £30million since 2010 in Newcastle alone. This is completely unacceptable and has hit families in areas like ours the hardest.

 ‘If the Prime Minister wants to leave behind any kind of positive legacy as she departs from Downing Street, she must act now to put this right.’