Today: Swire asks a question at Prime Minister’s Question Time (no, not about East Devon)

Hugo Swire, a Conservative, asks if May has a message for the people of Hong Kong.

May says people were marching peacefully in Hong Kong. It is vital that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is respected. She has raised this with Chinese leaders, she says.

Run by family members (Owl seems to recall cousin Barnaby runs the Hong Kong end:

“Swire Group is a Hong Kong- and London-based diversified conglomerate. Many of its core businesses can be found within the Asia Pacific region, where traditionally Swire’s operations have centred on Hong Kong and mainland China. Within Asia, Swire’s activities come under the group’s publicly quoted arm, Swire Pacific Limited.[1] Elsewhere in the world, many businesses are held directly by parent company, John Swire & Sons Limited, in Australia, Papua New Guinea, East Africa, Sri Lanka, the USA and UK. Swire controls a large property empire in Asia – mainly Hong Kong. The current chairman is Barnaby Swire. Taikoo (太古) is the Chinese name of Swire. It serves as the brand name for businesses such as Taikoo Sugar and Taikoo Shing.”

Here’s some info about the family:

and here’s some history of the Swire Group in China and Hong Kong:

Local authority finance officers “lose confidence in ability to deliver services”

The majority of local government finance officers have lost confidence in their future financial positions over the last year, a CIPFA survey has revealed.

Seventy per cent of respondents said they were either slightly less or much less confident in their financial position this year compared to 2018-19, according to the CIPFA’s confidence survey out today.

It also found that 68% said they were either slightly less or much less confident in their ability to deliver services in 2020-21. Sixty-two per cent expressed equal confidence in their financial position for 2019-20 as they had last year, the survey revealed.

CIPFA found that the area of greatest pressure for top tier authorities was children’s social care, with the number of authorities rating it as the biggest pressure rising by six percentage points.

For districts the greatest pressures were housing, cultural services and environmental services.

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executive, said: “Local government is facing greater demand pressures than ever before, with particularly pressures in adults’ and children’s social care and housing. Local authorities also lack certainty about their future financial positions, so it’s unsurprising to see confidence on the decline.

“We have repeatedly pointed out that local government is in need of a sustainable funding solution, but meeting this demand requires more than pennies and pounds. The sector as a whole must come together to address the challenges of effective service delivery.”

CIPFA’s survey received a total of 119 responses from authorities in the UK – 56 top tier authorities, 47 English districts, 12 Scottish authorities, and 4 Welsh authorities.

The LGA yesterday released a survey, two-thirds of councils believed they would not be able to fund statutory services by 2024-25.

Now we are being told to pay (again) for austerity

Owl says: Wasn’t austerity meant to balance the books, after which we would then be rewarded for making do while it happened? Apparently not.

“Let councils charge higher taxes to pay for austerity, says LGA chair

Local authorities should be given the freedom to impose higher council taxes to help cope with the unprecedented funding crisis facing social care services after a near decade of austerity, the Tory chair of the Local Government Association has said.

James Jamieson urged ministers to inject billions of pounds into adult social care and give councils more control of local health services to protect elderly and disabled people and give them the support they needed. “It is a measure of a good society how well it treats it most vulnerable,” said the councillor.

Reflecting increasing concern over the impact of the reductions, he called for major extra investment in children’s social care, a reversal of cuts to Sure Start-style early-years family support services and a review of special educational needs services funding.

His comments reflect a growing cross-party consensus at local level that national government has little grasp how continuing austerity cuts are hurting local communities and putting people at risk. Last month, Jamieson’s Tory predecessor, Lord Porter, warned that vulnerable people would die because of social care cuts.

There is little confidence that the government will be in a position to deliver its promised three-year spending review this autumn, effectively imposing a further year of austerity on town halls and forcing them to plan for service cuts and staff redundancies they had hoped would be unnecessary.

The LGA warned earlier on Tuesday that the deteriorating outlook for council finances would see a fifth of authorities forced to impose drastic controls on spending this year to avoid insolvency, while a third of councils would struggle to deliver statutory services within three years.

Jamieson, in his inaugural speech at the LGA annual conference in Bournemouth, said the council tax referendum cap, introduced by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2012 and currently set at 2.99%, ought to be abolished. “Residents should be given the choice; if they want to pay more for extra services, why can’t they?”

He said that councils in England had lost 60p out of every £1 of central government funding since 2010, while the number of new child protection investigations had doubled, there had been a 56% increase in homelessness and the number of older people aged over 85 had increased by a third.

The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said in his speech to the LGA that he recognised councils’ uncertainty over future funding, adding: “It is right that we look at the challenges and opportunities you face, and the funding you are currently relying on, including for social care, when we consider what a sustainable settlement looks like for local government for the coming years.”

Meanwhile, a survey of council chiefs found nearly half expect that Brexit will damage their local economies by reducing exports and overseas investment. This would critically reduce council income from business rates at a time when they were already struggling to maintain the quality and breadth of core services.

PWC’s annual survey of council leaders, chief executives and finance directors revealed that more than half believed that some authorities would get into serious financial difficulty or fail to deliver core services at some point over the next year.

A PWC survey of 2,000 UK users of council services found that 67% were concerned about cuts on their community, up from 61% a year ago; 77% said they or their family had been impacted by cuts; and 51% opposed the need for cuts, up from 48% in 2018.

Councils must hold a referendum if they wish to raise council tax beyond the 2.99% limit. No local authority has taken up the option. In January, Northamptonshire county council was given special dispensation by ministers to raise council tax by an extra 2%, raising £6m, to aid its recovery from insolvency. Similar requests from other councils have been turned down.

Local authority directors of adult social care warned last week that the escalating financial crisis in social care had put tens of thousands of older and disabled people at risk of being denied basic support such as help with washing and dressing.”