Letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring 2024 Budget

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

Chancellor of the Exchequer


29 February, 2024

Dear Jeremy,  

Urgent Treasury funding required for local and public services  

I am writing to you in advance of the Budget to underscore how critical it is that you act to fund vital local public services. 

Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the acute financial pressure that councils face, including Brighton and Hove City Council.  Local Government is the fabric of our communities, and I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to address this pressure and increase funding for our local and public services.   

Local Government funding 

According to the NAO, even before the pandemic, Local Government was grappling with funding cuts of nearly 50% since 2010-11.  On top of this, local authorities are facing ongoing inflationary pressures coupled with increased demand for their vital services.  

The additional £600m funding announced by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities earlier this year is widely considered inadequate by those working in and delivering public services.  For example, as you may be aware, 75% of councils said that they would still need to make cuts to their adult social care budget, and 69% said the same in relation to their children’s services budget, in response to a Local Government Association (LGA) survey.   

It is plain that local services are struggling with increased demand and there are huge pressures on the key areas of council activity that involve caring for people who are vulnerable.  I see this demonstrated every week in my constituency casework.  The struggle is also evident from the shocking state of our broken social care system, child poverty, increased foodbank use, and a very serious increase in the number of homeless households and people in temporary accommodation. 

It is critical that Local Government is urgently given the additional funding necessary to ensure it can properly support people who are living longer with multiple, complex, long-term conditions.  Moreover, care-worker pay and conditions are neither fair nor sufficient.  The Treasury needs to urgently provide substantial new investment, both to help tackle unmet and under-met need through an expansion of provision, including preventative services, and for new models of care, including housing, and funding for the voluntary and community sector.  

Social housing 

As I have set out in previous correspondence, in Brighton and Hove there is an unprecedented housing, homelessness and temporary accommodation crisis. I sincerely hope that in your Budget announcement you will take account of, and act in line with, important analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, commissioned by the National Housing Federation and Shelter.  This shows how building 90,000 social homes a year would add £51.2bn net to the economy over a 30-year period, thus paying for itself in fewer than three years by directly supporting nearly 140,000 jobs.   

A mass programme of zero carbon social housing would also deliver savings in climate emissions, housing benefit, costs to the NHS and from homelessness reduction, whilst also bringing in income from eg construction taxes and employment taxes, amongst many other benefits. 

Child poverty 

It is critical that the Treasury invests in reducing child poverty and gives every child the chance to fulfil their potential. Specifically, I urge you to: 

  • scrap the two-child limit, remove the benefit cap, increase child benefit, and provide urgent further funding for the household support fund to continue beyond next month; 
  • roll out universal free school meals across England to support pupils’ learning and attainment, and reduce the pressure on household budgets; 
  • support more parents into work with tailored employment support, combined with high-quality, affordable childcare and a second earner work allowance in universal credit (and to move to a model of positive, supportive engagement instead of sanctions). 

School cuts 

I urge you to reverse the funding cuts to schools.  It is an outrage that Government funding decisions have resulted in 70% of maintained schools in England facing real-terms cuts since 2010/11. This includes 66% of maintained primary schools and 88% of maintained secondary schools.   In Brighton Pavilion, 46% of schools have less funding in real terms than they had in 2010. This equates to a change in per pupil funding of -£74 and a total change in school spending power of -£761,920 for all children in the constituency.  

It is estimated that at least £12.2 billion is needed to restore school spending power to 2010 levels, repair crumbling school buildings and tackle the crisis in SEND funding.  It is critical for our children's future that this is addressed in the Budget. 

Local Fire and Rescue Services 

I will conclude this letter with a final example of Treasury underfunding of a vital local service. I have previously contacted you about East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS).  As you may recall, last year I wrote about the need for a fully funded local fire and rescue service proportionate to need in the wake of a major incident at the Royal Albion Hotel, which required support from across the region. The ESFRS funding situation is still not resolved, and this is totally unacceptable.   

My local service leaders have made it clear that they are being forced to rely on short-term settlements and one-off grants which makes planning very difficult.  Our Fire and Rescue services need a fair, risk-based share of funding and this is not happening.  They need:  

  • medium-term settlements to help maintain current staffing levels; 
  • one off grants to be baselined into their ongoing settlement to provide certainty, including pensions, protection uplift and minimum funding guarantee; 
  • new burdens need to be fully funded, including high-rise buildings risk; 
  • funding for replacement and operation of National Resilience Assets; 
  • support for measures required to deliver on net zero 

The bottom line is my local fire and rescue service is not getting enough money to keep residents as safe as possible.  This is something I urge the Treasury to address with the DLUHC.  

All of the above are matters for the Treasury and arise from the systemic problems caused by 14 years of public services being hollowed out by your Government. This, coupled with inflation, high energy costs and insufficient funding settlements have created a perfect storm.  The problems facing Brighton and Hove are replicated at national level, with over half of councils facing bankruptcy within the next Parliament and nearly one in five council leaders in England now say they are likely to declare bankruptcy in the next 15 months.   

I urge you to provide the funding for housing and vital local services that is so desperately needed.

Yours sincerely,

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