Deprived areas ‘bearing brunt’ of local authority cuts

13 Sep 18

Councils in the most deprived areas of England have shouldered 97% of total cuts in spending on services for people in need, according to analysis.

Services for vulnerable people have become a “post-code lottery” with northern metropolitan councils typically suffering the most, a report by the New Policy Institute think-tank, on behalf of charitable trust Lloyds Bank Foundation, has found.

Looking at Whitehall data on local government from 2011-12 to 2016-17, researchers estimated that 97% of total cuts in spending in areas like adult social care, child social care and housing have fallen on the poorest 20% of councils. This is despite those areas also having a higher number of people in need.

The report A Quiet Crisis: Local government Spending on Disadvantage, released yesterday, concluded that bottom fifth of councils have had to cut spending by 5% (£278) since 2011-12, while less deprived areas have been able to maintain or increase spending in this area, over the last five years.

Paul Streets, chief executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation, said: “It cannot be right that the services you get if you are homeless or have a learning difficulty are dependent on the post-code lottery of the ability of your council to raise local taxes.

“And it’s a false economy that in trying to cope councils are forced to cut the very preventive services that can help people before they get into trouble in the first place.”

The data showed that council spending on preventing homelessness has dropped by 46% but homelessness crisis support spending has increased by 58%. 

Adam Tinson, head of research at the New Policy Institute, said: “This research shows how councils have been put in a position where they have to cut preventative services to maintain crisis provision.

“Even if dealing with a crisis is cheaper for the local authority than trying to prevent it, there are costs with this approach which fall elsewhere, especially on other family members, the NHS and schools.”

Lord Porter, Local Government Association chair, said:  “Very often it is those who are most vulnerable and need support across a range of services to improve life chances that rely on our local services the most.

“Pressures are growing in children’s services, adult social care, and efforts to tackle homelessness.

“This is leaving increasingly less money for councils to fund other services, like fixing potholes, cleaning streets and running leisure centres and libraries.”

A CIPFA survey of chief financial officers published in November last year found children’s social care was not the biggest concern for CFOs.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Local authorities are responsible for their own funding decisions and we have made £200bn available to councils up to 2020 for local services including those for children and young people.

“We are giving them the power to retain the growth in business rates income and are working with local government to develop a funding system for the future based on the needs of different areas.”

Last week, the Children’s Commissioner for England told PF that government must clarify the minimum level of children’s services to ensure thousands of children  got the support they needed.

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