Government cuts 'have hit deprived areas hardest', says Benn

26 Aug 14
The ten most deprived local authorities in England face a funding cut as much as 16 times greater than better-off areas of the country over the six years to the end of 2015/16, the Labour Party has claimed.

By Andrew Pring | 26 August 2014

The ten most deprived local authorities in England face a funding cut as much as 16 times greater than better-off areas of the country over the six years to the end of 2015/16, the Labour Party has claimed.

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Publishing an analysis of the impact of the government’s spending cuts on local authorities, shadow local government secretary Hilary Benn said the government had imposed ‘unfair and unjustifiable’ reductions on the most deprived local authorities.

According to Labour’s analysis of figures from the Audit Commission’s Tough Times 2013 report on council finances published last November, the ten most deprived areas, measured by spending power per dwelling, had their funding cut by an average £782.10. The figure for the ten least deprived areas was a cut of £48.35, Benn stated.

The third most deprived local authority in England, Newham in London, saw its funding reduced by £1002.36. However, Elmbridge District Council in Surrey, one of the least deprived authorities, actually saw spending per household rise by £41.14.

Setting out the disparities in a letter to council leaders, Benn said that Prime Minister David Cameron and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles had forgotten the principle of fairness amid the cuts.

‘[We] look at the way in which the Tory-led government has chosen to take most from those who have least – the most deprived local authorities – it is clear just how unfair and unjustifiable this is.

‘David Cameron’s government have made the wrong choices. They have ducked tough decisions and passed the hardest ones down to you, and they have failed to apply the basic principle of fairness. They had a choice, and they made the wrong one as far as communities up and down the country are concerned.’

A Labour government will adopt ‘a radically different approach to delivering public services’, Benn reiterated, with funding directed towards need.

‘Labour is clear that we cannot simply spend more money to deal with these pressures but it rejects the Tory approach of just cutting back services and leaving communities to sink or swim.

‘Labour will end the bias against our poorest areas by ensuring that the funding we have is distributed more fairly.

This would include giving longer-term funding settlements to local areas so they can better plan ahead and deliver savings through better preventative services.

‘Labour will devolve powers so local places can deliver economic growth and push down resource from Whitehall so that communities can spend money more effectively,’ he added.

Responding to the research, local government minister Kris Hopkins said that under Labour, council tax bills more than doubled whilst local services like bin collections halved.

'Local government, which accounts for a quarter of public spending, was strangled in red tape by Labour who turned a blind eye to massive waste and inefficiency in the public sector and ran up massive public debts,' he said.

Councils need to do their bit to help pay off the deficit that Labour left. Councils can save money through more joint working, better procurement and cutting fraud.'

The figures published by Labour comes after a CIPFA analysis highlighted that council spending will have fallen by nearly 30% by the end of the current parliament. 

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