Councils acting as human shields for failed austerity, says McDonnell

Chancellor Philip Hammond must use his Spring Statement to help struggling councils which are acting as "human shields" for the Government's "failed economic policy of austerity", John McDonnell will say.

The shadow chancellor will warn that local authorities across England are facing bankruptcy as a result of spending cuts since 2010.

And he will highlight reported comments from David Hodges, the leader of Surrey County Council, which covers Mr Hammond's constituency, who said the authority was facing "the most difficult financial crisis in our history" and urged the Government not to "stand idly by while Rome burns".

At a speech in Southampton, Mr McDonnell will say: "There is a crisis in our local and national economies yet the Tories are bizarrely saying they will pass up an opportunity this month to act.

"In fact, they are so desperate to play down the Spring Statement in two weeks' time and hide from their own economic record that they refuse to publish any major document, and have even moved the day away from the usual Wednesday after PMQs.

"The Chancellor will do anything to look after himself and delay making a decision to help our struggling communities and our economy.

"That is why he has continued with his failed economic policy of austerity and let local councils act like human shields having to carry out his cuts.

"Things have got so bad that even the Tory leader of his own local council in Surrey has demanded help and warned that they face a 'financial crisis' if the Government does not act.

"If his own local Tory council leader doesn't trust his main economic policy, why should anyone else in the country?"