Sunderland's leaders unite to demand better funding for council services from Autumn Statement

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Councils are struggling under a range of pressures

Sunderland's political leaders have demanded extra funding from the Government to help the city through tough times.

The leaders of political groups on Sunderland City Council have written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of Wednesday's Autumn Statement stating councils 'remain under intense financial pressure'.

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The letter goes on to outline how, in common with other councils, Sunderland is facing significant cost increases in:

  • Children’s social care as a result of rising costs and demand pressures 
  • Home to school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Adult social care, driven by higher demand and rising costs resulting from inflation.
  • Homelessness services

The leaders want to see more money allocated to help ease these pressures when Mr Hunt presents his Autumn Statement - essentially a mini-budget of taxing and spending decisions - to Parliament on Wednesday, November 22.

There was additional funding from Government in the 2020 Autumn Statement and 2023/24 Local Government Finance Settlement, but leaders say this is not enough to cope with the challenging circumstances facing councils.

The letter is signed by Councillor Graeme Miller, Labour Council Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor  Antony Mullen, Conservative Group Leader and Councillor Paul Edgeworth, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group.

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It reads: "We continue to face 'significant inflationary and pay pressures alongside rising demand for our services and market challenges in areas such as children’s social care and temporary accommodation.  This is happening on the back of a 27.5% real-terms reduction in the Council’s core spending power since 2010/11.

"Moving the burden to council taxpayers is not the solution. Many of our residents are struggling due to the ongoing cost of living crisis – which is further fuelling the demand for additional support from the Council both financially and for our services.

"Government support is needed urgently to ensure service sustainability and to reduce the burden on council taxpayers. The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Government to recognise there are significant cost pressures that need additional national funding so that councils are able to meet needs and still balance their budgets."

Cllr Miller said: "As a council we continue to stand by our communities and do everything we can to support them through the ongoing cost of living crisis.

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"But in the face of high demand and rising costs, we urgently need the Government to play its part by providing additional funding to help support the services that our residents rely on, rather than expecting us to pass the costs on to struggling council tax payers."

Cllr Mullen said: "This cross-party call for support from the government reflects the unique challenges we still face because of COVID-19 and the subsequent inflation experienced across the world.

"We all recognise the substantial amount of money invested in Sunderland - from the Levelling Up grants to the Future High Street funds that are transforming the city centre - but I am joining the call for additional funding for children's social care in particular."

Cllr Edgeworth said: "It just isn’t fair that people across Sunderland are being asked to pay more in Council Tax each and every year. Wednesday’s Autumn Budget statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to do the right thing and give Sunderland Council extra funding to freeze Council Tax as the cost of living crisis continues to bite."

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Sunderland City Council's funding gap for 2024/2025 before any council tax increase is over £25million. The council says it plans to use £9million of reserves to help support the position and achieve a balanced budget in 2024/2025. 

But it also makes the point that as reserves are one-off,  this position cannot be sustained and simply passes the pressure into future years.

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