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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Keir Starmer refuses to rule out council tax rises on visit to Berkshire

Local services in Berkshire are struggling due to underfunding, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has acknowledged. But he told the LDRS that a Labour government wouldn’t have a ‘magic wand’ to fix the crisis.

Mr Starmer came as Labour figures refused to confirm whether their plans for local services rest on allowing councils to increase council tax beyond the maximum 5 per cent.

He told the LDRS: “Many councils are now struggling of all political colours because they’ve been underresourced for many many years and it’s got to the point now where I think local people are seriously concerned about the delivery of services which they rely on.

“We haven’t got a magic wand. I can’t say to voters, the day after the election I’ll get the wand out and we’ll find lots and lots of money that isn’t there.”

Mr Starmer was speaking on a visit to Berkshire on Tuesday, 18 June, where councils are struggling with their finances.

Slough Borough Council has already declared bankruptcy in 2021 – and overspent by £14 million last year. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead last month had to apply for a bailout deal from the government.

Bracknell Forest and Wokingham Borough councils have also battled to control overspends in their budgets.

Mr Starmer did not answer whether a Labour government’s solution meant further council tax increases. But he said Labour would give councils three year funding deals as opposed to the current annual settlements. And he said growth in the economy would help public services.

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