Labour appalled as Conservative leader ignores county’s vulnerable people.

County Durham’s new Coalition Council has been accused of “putting the lives of the vulnerable at risk” by dismissing a clear crisis in adult social care funding.

Labour labelled comments made by Deputy Council Leader, Conservative member Richard Bell, “cruel and arrogant” after he stated that there was “no crisis in adult social care in County Durham”, at Full Council.

Cllr Bell was adding an amendment to a Motion tabled by Cllr Rob Crute, calling on the authority to write to the PM demanding assurances that adequate backing is received to address the social care funding crisis.

Cllr Crute had called on county Tory Coalition chiefs to write to Boris Johnson in an attempt to secure a fair deal for Durham, and help the county bounce back from the impact of the pandemic and address inequalities in the way funding is currently distributed in England.

Cllr Crute said: “One in three children in the North East and one in five children of key workers live in poverty in County Durham, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. County Council services are critical to children and families, but our budgets have been cut £250m per annum since 2011, as the Tory/Lib Dem austerity purge began to bite.

“For Cllr Bell to say that there is not a crisis in adult social care is absolutely outrageous. We are in the teeth of a crisis and have been for some time, we need assurances from this Government that funding is coming and we need to secure those assurances by writing to the Prime Minister.

“We have been waiting for ten years for a fair deal for County Durham – a decade of campaigning as our Government funding was slashed while wealthy Tory councils saw funding increased. Cllr Bell, a Tory leader from this Tory Coalition, told full council that writing to the Tory Prime Minister of this country would “achieve nothing” while dismissing the obvious crisis in social care – I find that cruel and arrogant and so will the people of County Durham.”

Persistent delays to the Government’s Fair Funding Review, Business Rates Retention Scheme and proposed model for Social Care have created increasing uncertainty as future Durham County Council budgets are planned.

Figures published by the Local Government Association illustrate the impact austerity and Government funding cuts are having on the people of County Durham, with spending power reductions of £343 (or 16%) per household since 2011/12. This compares with spending power increases in other local authority areas such as Wokingham and Surrey.

Cllr Crute added: “The very least this Coalition Council could do is act to address the inequality we’re seeing in our county and gain an element of budget certainty from this chaotic Government.

“It’s time for Ministers to get their act together, and deliver on their promise to ‘level-up’ all parts of the country. They must stop putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk and start funding council services to the needs of their residents, instead of handing billions of pounds of public money to rich pals to deliver failed or failing projects. In short, it’s time to put need before greed.”