Poorest areas hit with biggest cuts in council funding

DEARNE MP John Healey has attacked the Government for hitting the poorest areas hardest with the biggest cuts in council funding.

He drew upon new figures showing the average council in Yorkshire will lose £571 per person compared to those in the South East, where councils only lose £305 per person by 2017/18.

South Yorkshire will fare even worse, with Barnsley losing £739 and Rotherham £682.

Challenging local government minister Brandon Lewis in Parliament this week, Mr Healey said: “What this Minister has not said is that the decisions made by him and his colleagues have been hitting the poorest areas hardest with the biggest cuts in council funding.

“Why must five years of a Tory Secretary of State mean that the cuts in the budgets of councils in the south-east will be half the size of the cuts in inner London or in the three northern regions?”

He said afterwards: “Areas in the greatest need, like Rotherham and Barnsley, are being hit again and again with the biggest cuts. This is wrong and means help isn’t going to the people who need it most.

“Fair funding of local councils can help reduce the gap between rich and poor and make sure we don’t fail the most vulnerable.”

The figures highlighting the large disparity were released this week in a report by Sigoma, which represents municipal authorities including Barnsley and Rotherham. The situation is toughest among councils that are members of Sigoma, who will lose £685 on average.

Sigoma warned the north-south divide was pushing some councils to breaking point and that any economic recovery may bypass parts of the country.

The group said the cuts were down to new funding structures and welfare reform changes, and councils suffering the largest cuts often faced the highest costs.

Sigoma said the Government was failing to consider the cumulative impact of their reforms, with the large number of changes meaning the same councils were being hit again and again with cuts in funding.

Sir Steve Houghton CBE, chair of Sigoma and leader of Barnsley Council, said: “Sigoma’s report shows the Government’s complete disregard for the mounting pressure faced by certain councils and the pain it is causing their residents.

“The Government must make fair funding a key priority to allow councils to provide essential services without the growing distraction of a service failure.”

Councils have seen their funding cut by a third in real terms in the current spending review (to March 2015) with an additional 10 per cent cut announced this year.

Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 the 10 most deprived local authorities in England will lose six times the amount in spending per head of population compared to the 10 least deprived local authorities.

Mr Healey has repeatedly highlighted how areas in greatest need like South Yorkshire are facing heavy cuts in funding – for public health and fire services, for example – while richer areas are getting more cash.