Luton MPs call on government to rescue borough council from massive cuts of £22m

Luton’s two MPs have made a last-ditch plea for the government to rescue the borough council from massive cuts.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 7:05 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 7:08 pm

Luton Borough Council is currently drawing up plans for cuts of £22 million to services - 16% of its annual spending - in order to avoid bankruptcy

It follows a massive drop in passenger numbers at Luton Airport due to the coronavirus pandemic, which by the council's own estimate has caused a £49 million hole in its budget.

As owners of the airport, the council receives an annual dividend of £20 million to maintain services.

(Inset) MPs Rachel Hopkins and Sarah Owen; Luton Town Hall

Yesterday, MPs Sarah Owen and Rachel Hopkins wrote to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick, calling for the council's request of £50 million emergency support to be granted.

Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins said: “A decade of austerity has stripped £138 million from Luton Borough Council’s budget and damaged local public services.

"Without emergency funding to address the income shortfall caused by COVID-19, additional cuts will have a devastating impact on local peoples’ living standards.

"The government should not be penalising Luton Borough Council for funding vital services by relying on income from its ownership of London-Luton Airport.

"Cutting central government funding gave the council no other choice."

Among all local authorities in the country, Luton is the second-most reliant upon commercial revenue for its budget.

Particular concerns have been raised about the impact of further cuts to Luton's health and social care services, as communities recover in the aftermath of COVID-19.

The council had budgeted £250 million in 2020/21 for everyday services, including social care.

Luton North MP Sarah Owen said: “Coronavirus has put our town, even more than in other parts of the country, in an incredibly difficult position.

"The government promised us that they would stand with local councils and do whatever it takes to keep things going through this pandemic.

"Now we’re asking them to deliver.

"People in Luton have suffered a great deal throughout this crisis and now more than ever, the council should be spared from more government cuts.”