Last week The Guardian carried an article on the unfair targeting of cuts in local government spending power (See Appendix A for article). The heatmap of cuts can be found at Appendix C and the Guardian have an interactive comparison of the cuts with other indicators of social deprivation (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/14/council-cuts-targeted-deprived-areas, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/nov/14/council-cuts-england-detailed).
Analysis shows that Councils in northern, urban cities and London boroughs with high levels of deprivation, predominantly run by Labour, have seen their budgets cut by almost 10 times the amount lost by mostly Tory-administered authorities in rural southern England.
We all knew the cuts were being targeted in an unfair way. Pickles’ Poll Tax - council tax rises for the poorest – come in on the same day next April as a tax cut for millionaires.
But this new information shows that Tories and Liberals have actually targeted cuts at the most deprived communities.
David Cameron’s local authority of West Oxfordshire loses only £34.33 per head compared to £92.63 here in Hyndburn.
London and major cities are being hit hard, far more so than the councils that David Cameron and many of his Cabinet represent.
GUARDIAN: Council cuts ‘targeted towards deprived areas’
Deprived boroughs have budgets cut by almost 10 times the amount lost by Tory-administered authorities in the rural south.
Councils in northern, urban cities and London boroughs with high levels of deprivation predominantly run by Labour have seen their budgets cut by almost 10 times the amount lost by mostly Tory-administered authorities in rural southern England during the government’s first spending round, according to official analysis.
Figures produced by Newcastle city council show that, on average, local authorities faced a cut of £61 a year for each person in the total funding they received from government throughout the coalition’s first comprehensive spending review, ending March 2014. Newcastle had considered money poured into 330 local authorities directly and also through schemes such as the new homes bonus and the council tax freeze.
Analysis of the data by the Guardian reveals that in the 50 worst councils affected by the government’s decision to slash local authority budgets from 2010, the average cut was £160 per head. This group included the poorest populations in Britain – such as the most deprived council in the country, Hackney, and struggling urban areas of the north such as Liverpool, Rochdale and South Tyneside. In this group, on average a third of children were living in poverty.
In contrast, the 50 councils least affected were those such as Wokingham, Richmond and Elmbridge – largely in the well-heeled south. They suffered cuts on average of £16 a head over the three-year period and had child poverty rates of 10%.
The distribution and pattern of the cuts, said the Labour leader of Newcastle city council, Nick Forbes, was demonstrably unfair. “As a result we are having to slash public services that many people rely on. Things like Sure Start and children’s centres have had to close, which really make an impact on the cycle of poverty”.
In the past week 10 libraries in the city have been marked for closure as well as the majority of its swimming pools by 2016.
He warned that councils could go bust. “If this goes on, by 2018 we will see the end of local government as we know it,” he said. “Many councils are staring at bankruptcy if the government continues this Darwinian approach of only the strong surviving”.
In Westminster Hilary Benn, the shadow secretary for local government, said his office had also examined the data, which was released this month by council officials. He said the cuts were “politically targeted”. Labour local authorities suffered losses of £108 a head, while Tory-run councils suffered a comparable loss of £36.
“Of the 50 worst-hit councils, 43 are Labour. Of the least-hit 50 councils, 42 are Tory. This looks like local government funding is being used to alleviate the impact of cuts on Tory voters at the expense of Labour voters,” said Benn. “This new information shows just how the Tories and Liberals have targeted cuts in a way that doesn’t reflect the resources communities need”.
Claire Kober, Labour leader of London’s Haringey council, which has seen budgets cut by £170 a head and is the 11th most deprived local authority in Britain, said this amounted to £84m in budget cuts. “Our budget is down to £280m a year and I am extremely concerned because the chancellor has entrali that his autumn statement in December will say we can expect austerity until 2017. This when we are expected to absorb £5m in council tax cuts and build classrooms for 240 more children.”
Tony Travers of the London School of Economics said councils should prepare themselves to be in an “extraordinarily reduced position in 2020. For all the talk of entralized the UK remains the most entralized government in the western world. Yet the truth is local government is the most efficient of public services.”
The Local Government Association said councils suffered a 28% cut in cash they get from central government between 2010/11 and 2014/15. However the rising cost of social care, especially in county councils, would mean the money available by 2020 to fund council services like road maintenance, libraries and leisure centres will have shrunk by 90% in cash terms.
LGA Chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, said: “Councils have borne the brunt of cuts to public spending. They have worked extremely hard to protect core services from the full impact but they are running rapidly out of wriggle room.”
Not all local authorities agreed with the analysis. The biggest winner was Tory-run North Dorset which, it was claimed, lost just £2.70 a head in funding over the past three years. However when contacted by the Guardian, officials said by its calculations the figure was closer to £19. “It is hard to draw a comparison between a large, urban, industrial council like Newcastle and a small rural council such as North Dorset but both have specific areas of need and both are suffering from a reduction in government funding.”
The government said Labour was “peddling baseless desperate accusations”. Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Councils’ total expenditure is estimated to be £114 billion in England in 2012-13, and funding is distributed in a fair and sustainable way across all parts of the country, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire. Given councils account for a quarter of all public spending, it is vital they continue to play their part in tackling Labour’s budget deficit by making sensible savings through better procurement, greater transparency and sharing back offices.”