A report published today reveals the “human cost” of Government cuts in the North East.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the most deprived areas of England have seen the largest cuts in funding since 2010.
‘The Cost Of The Cuts’ report finds that local authorities have been able to protect front line services by finding new, innovative ways of working, but that capacity for further efficiency savings is fast running out.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, who last week oversaw £40million budget cutbacks and a council tax increase which will see the city’s Band B residents paying £20 more a year, said:
“This research highlights the human cost of the cuts to service users and staff and reinforces the case Newcastle has made for a fairer and more equitable settlement.
“We have long argued that disproportionate Government cuts have had a bigger impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have now added their independent voice to the many who now confirm that, sadly this has indeed been the case.
“Whilst we recognise the need for reductions in public spending, the cuts have been implemented far too quickly and at a pace and scale which has led to service reductions which could otherwise have been avoided. This approach is causing real harm to our communities.
“In Newcastle we have responded by doing all we can to safeguard services to the most vulnerable, and to continue to invest in our city to create the jobs and economic growth which are fundamentally important to tackling the inequalities in health, wealth and quality of life which blight our communities.
“More innovative approaches are possible based on greater devolution of public service budgets to places, and multi-year financial settlements which give local councils and their partners greater certainty about their finances. This would allow us to plan ahead together for a more transformative approach to sustaining public services in the face of continuing austerity.”
Analysis of local government expenditure data reveals that the poorest English authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent, breaking the historic link between the amount a local authority spends per head and local deprivation levels.
In 2010/11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45% of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17%.
Services such as housing and planning have been worst affected across the country, seeing cuts of around 40%.
The report highlights an important difference between the situation in England and in Scotland. It claims the slower pace of cuts in Scotland may have given local authorities more room to invest in preventative measures, which could drive down costs in the medium term by reducing the need for services in future years.
Professor Annette Hastings from the University of Glasgow said:
“Local councils find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. At a time when the agenda is about how to make public services work better, particularly for those that need them the most, councils are being subjected to year on year funding cuts.
“Their capacity to deliver positive change is being reduced just when it is needed the most.”
Josh Stott, policy and research manager at the Foundation said:
“The cuts have forced the pace of local service reform and there have been some positives, in terms of service redesign and new ways of working.
“However, we are now beginning to see the impacts of the cuts filter through on to the quality of local services. There is a general consensus that we are only half way through the cuts and, if we continue on this course, it seems inevitable that the poorest people and places will be even harder hit.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Mar 2015