Editor’s comment: Cannot give our councils a choice of ‘cuts or bust’

North London front pages, dated September 3, 2020. Picture: Archant

North London front pages, dated September 3, 2020. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

This week we’ve taken the unusual step of running stories with a common theme on the front pages of all our north London titles.

In recent months the financial cost of the coronavirus pandemic for our local authorities has become more and more apparent. So we’ve given a platform to calls for the government to live up to its promise, all those months ago, to do “whatever it takes”.

Those were the words of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, talking about the economy and the NHS - but also the crisis as a whole. Then in mid-March Robert Jenrick, the local government secretary, “reaffirmed government’s commitment to giving councils the support they need to contribute to the national effort”.

Our councils reorganised swiftly in response to the pandemic. Now they must have the right support.

Of course, it is ultimately us, the taxpayers, who will pay for all this, but funding must come via government. If it doesn’t, it can only mean cuts to services, and we have already seen a decade of austerity. Further cuts will once again mean the vulnerable suffer.

Mr Sunak won a lot of fans early in the crisis. Having gained that political capital, he must resist being led by the libertarian voices in his party. An Autumn Statement is imminent - its contents will be telling.

Many readers will be dissatisfied with their councils - we certainly report many of those stories in this newspaper - but though they may fall short, the answer is not to allow them to be crippled by this crisis. Readers are from parties across the political spectrum, often in opposition to the council’s controlling party, but this need not be an argument along party lines.

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Forcing councils into a corner where they are faced with “cuts or bust” can only be a mistake.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know.