The week before Christmas, the government announced the local government financial settlement – what money councils will get from central government for the next financial year.

I have always found this important news being released just before the holidays as odd. Does the government want to ruin Christmas for councillors, council staff and residents?

Well, the answer this year was definitely yes!

For years this Conservative government has slashed local budgets, overseeing brutal cuts to vital services.

They have pushed local government to a cliff edge and ministers are scrambling at the last minute to avoid yet more bankruptcies.

The recently announced funding may not even be enough to keep local authorities afloat, and will do nothing to plug the gap in our social care sector, which is already caught in the grip of a generational crisis.

The funding uplift announced by the government assumes that all councils will increase their council tax bills by the maximum allowed in 2024-25.

This means local authorities are again left facing the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding.

This settlement does not provide enough funding to meet the severe cost and demand pressures which have left councils of all political colours warning of the serious challenges they face to set balanced budgets next year.

Councils in England continue to face a funding gap of £4billion over the next two years.

It is unthinkable that government has not provided desperately needed new funding for local services in 2024-25.

The government urgently needs to address the growing financial crisis facing councils and come up with a long-term plan to sufficiently fund local services through multi-year settlements. We clearly need local government to be properly funded.

Which brings me from the general struggles of councils to the overwhelming challenge that we face in Woking.

As a result of the Conservative government lending our small borough council £2billion and mismanagement by the former Conservative administration of Woking council, our town is effectively bankrupt.

Simon Hoare MP, the Minister for Local Government, has said their view is that Woking should increase its share of council tax by ten per cent – and that such a rise would be “appropriate and proportionate”.

This is contrary to what the Liberal Democrats running the council were planning: our draft budget included a three per cent increase. I’m concerned by the Government expectation of a council tax rise of up to ten per cent during a cost-of-living crisis.

However, one small crumb of comfort is that, in practice, this is likely to mean a 50p a week increase for a Band D property as the borough council receives only a small proportion – 12 per cent – of local council tax.