Despite the fact the economy is growing, austerity and cuts – for some – continue … so that the benefits of the economic growth can go to others.
On 18th December, Local Government minister Kris Hopkins announced next year’s funding statement for Councils. Overall, he said, it amounted to a 1.8% cut, bringing the total of cuts to 40% since 2010.
What you have to look at, however, is where the cuts are falling, because they are not falling equally all over the country. Under Labour, local government funding was centred on need – the more deprived areas got more per head than the wealthy areas. This government is turning that around, and distributing funding by population, but also by economic growth, with money going to reward the economically active areas.
Consequently, the cuts have not fallen equitably.
Middlesbrough is facing cuts of £9m (£145 less per household).
Similarly Newcastle -£15m (-£119), Sunderland -£12m (-£97) etc.
But, at the other end of the table, a number of councils are actually getting increases.
Surrey is being given £27m *more* money (+£56 per household).
West Sussex +£15m (+£41), Richmond upon Thames +£3m (+£37).
To make things worse, the minister confirmed the government is also axing the fund which provided £180m central funding for council-run local welfare assistance schemes. So, as spending on Council services is stretched, the poorest will have nowhere to go in a crisis.
Durham County Council is expecting a real cut of £16m in its spending. With social needs in the county growing, how the government expects DCC to cope with £57 per household less next year, without the safety net of the welfare assistance scheme, I cannot imagine. My guess is that they simply do not care.
To be fair, County Durham still gets more per household (£2048) than Surrey (£1863), but what we are seeing here is a massive redistribution of Council funding FROM the deprived areas of the north TO the wealthy areas of the south and south-midlands. In a very real way, today, the government has taken £57 from each household in County Durham, and given it to the people of Surrey.
The other day I caught Scott Wood, the Tory candidate for Sedgefield, trying to ascribe the town centre redevelopment to government money (it was wholly privately-funded)! He did not reply when I challenged him to say *what* money, and appears simply to have deleted his original tweet. I wonder whether he will now reply to this, and tell us what he thinks about today’s Council funding settlement for the County.
Counc John D. Clare