Cuts have hit the region’s town halls nine times harder than wealthy parts of the South, a new analysis shows – despite the North facing much higher care bills.
The study highlights the areas where people suffer most from poor physical and mental health, disability and early death, imposing huge extra costs on local councils.
The worst-hit fifth of 325 authorities includes no fewer than ten North-East areas, a list headed by Middlesbrough which is ranked fourth for “health deprivation and disability”.
Not far behind are Newcastle (13th), Hartlepool (14th), Gateshead (17th), Darlington (20th), Redcar and Cleveland (21st), Sunderland (25th) and County Durham (28th), followed by Stockton-on-Tees (51st) and South Tyneside (65th).
On average, those ten councils have lost £213.04 of their overall ‘spending power’ for every resident since 2010, according to finance chiefs at Newcastle City Council.
Yet, the average loss in the ten areas with the fewest sick and disabled people, and much lower care costs, is calculated at just £23.19 per head – more than nine times less.
Incredibly, spending power has actually risen at one authority, Elmbridge, in Surrey (up £8.14 per head) – while it has plummeted in Middlesbrough (down £289.02).
The gulf is seen as crucial because social care is the biggest financial burden for cash-strapped councils, which are now also responsible for public health.
Recently, the charity Age UK warned that older people have been left “high and dry” by council cutbacks to help with washing and dressing, to day care places and meals on wheels services.
Hilary Benn, Labour’s local government spokesman, condemned the much-bigger cuts in areas with the biggest ill-health and disability burdens as “deeply irresponsible and unfair”.
Councils hit by the biggest cuts are already known to have slashed spending on adult social care by 12.7 per cent on average – against just 1.2 per cent in more protected authorities.
Labour has promised a new “fairer formula” for distributing local authority grants, but has yet to give details, or say when this would be introduced.
The ‘spending power’ measure bundles together grants, council tax, business rates and the New Homes Bonus, but is widely criticised for disguising the true scale of the pain.
Newcastle’s finance department calculated the changes since the 2010 general election, after the Government refused to produce official figures.
Source – Northern Echo, 14 Feb 2015
Council tax could rise after a four year freeze for ratepayers as Newcastle City Council announces a further £90m cut to its budget over the next three years.
Leader of the council Nick Forbes said he couldn’t ‘rule out’ an increase as he looks to save £40m from the next financial year alone as less money comes to Newcastle from Central Government.
Councillor Forbes said the financial year 2015 to 2016 would see the authority facing a series of ‘fiscal cliffs’ as the council struggles to maintain anything but basic services.
The end of certain Sure Start child care services will be announced on Thursday, while the public have been told to expect a dirtier city as the council cuts back on street cleaning.
The Labour leader said: “The Government hasn’t as yet made it clear whether there will be an offer about a council tax freeze but given the dire cuts that we are facing and the need to maintain a decent environment means we can’t rule it out.
“We have frozen the tax for the last four years because we wanted to help people with the cost of living crisis.”
The council’s latest budget cut announcement will go before Cabinet to be discussed by councillors on October 22. Specific services under threat from being axed will be finalised for formal consultation with the public in December, however £5m is already known to be going from the budget for Sure Start centres.
The £90m cut by 2018 is on top of the £151m that has been cut since 2010 which led to some libraries being transferred into community ownership and the City Pool shut down.
Coun. Forbes, said:
“I have warned in the past that government cuts mean that public services in our city are facing a fiscal cliff. Today we are at the very edge of the precipice.
“We have begun a debate with our partners about how we can start to make this happen in many areas – but particularly in health and social care where we need to move resources away from crisis response to those services which help prevent people from coming to harm in the first place.”
He said greater devolution to the North East of England would help combat some of the ‘unpalatable options’ the council is facing, however until that happens there will be cuts to services he knows people cherish.
Further conversations with Sir Len Fenwick, the Chief Executive of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and other key health agencies will now need to be had as the council aims to devise stronger partnerships on delivering adult social care than ever before.
The Labour representative said: “There’s a willingness from health partners to do things differently.”
The £40m cut in the first year is to cope with the expected expenditure required of the council and a £25m decrease in Central Government’s revenue support grant.
However he said not all councils across the UK have been hit with the same funding reduction and the cut to Newcastle’s budget had been ten times greater than other councils. He said the city being given an ‘unfair’ financial deal is backed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Audit Commission.
Liberal Democrat councillor Anita Lower, leader of the opposition, said:
“You can blame Central Government but no one is saying ‘you must not fund Sure Start’. Central Government is saying here is the money, now you decide what to do with it.
“It’s about being creative and being aware of what’s out there and what needs do the public have and doing your best to provide that. We are at the point now where we know what’s coming from Central Government. Yes it’s tough but that’s what being in charge is about but these are Nick Forbes’ decisions.
“In the last two years we should have been talking more with parents, community groups and the private sector. There’s scope to get money from health, and schools could be doing more. Schools could use the Government’s pupil premium money to work with families or put it into Sure Start type services.”
> “It’s about being creative and being aware of what’s out there and what needs do the public have and doing your best to provide that” = workfare, no doubt. Why pay when you can conscript someone to do it for nothing.
Residents from across the city are invited to have their say on the council’s preparatory budget planning at www.letstalknewcastle.co.uk
Detailed proposals will be published for formal consultation in December 2014. The council will make final decisions on its budget in March 2015.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Oct 2014
> When I attended to Jobcentre to sign-on last week, I was handed a form, told to fill it in and hand it to whoever signed me on. Reading through it (always read these things before filling them in) I began to suspect that all may not have been as it seems at first glance.
I’ll take you through it….
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLE’S LIVES ?
PERSONAL AND PRACTICAL SUPPORT IS WHAT SOCIAL CARE IS ABOUT
In 2009 there were around 1.75 million paid jobs in adult social care, employing 1.6 million people. Its getting bigger. Adult social care continues to grow and its estimated that by 2025 social care may need up to 2.6 million workers to fill over 3 million paid jobs. We have training and jobs NOW.
> So, the first figures are from before the recession started, and the others are a guess at what things might be like in 11 years time (consider where you were in 2003 – did you think things could possibly get as bad as they are in 11 years time ? These figures are just wild guesses really).
Where will these jobs be, if they actually happen ? They obviously wont all be in the North East. Will any of them ? I don’t see a great demand in the current vacancies.
By volunteering to complete this form, you can help us to develop training – and help us to help you into work.
> Note the word volunteering – I was not told it was voluntary, in fact I was given the impression that I had to complete it.
Has anyone in the Jobcentre given you any information about Social Care ? Yes/No
Would you consider a career in Social Care ? Yes/No
If you have answered No, please explain why you would not consider this.
> Alarm bells ring ! Why should you have to explain ?
Social Care covers a very wide range of jobs – would you like to know more about the opportunities available ? Yes/No
Would you be interested in attending an Information Session about current Training and jobs available to you ? Yes/No
Would you like to discuss this further with your Work Coach ? Yes/No
Would you like more information emailed to you ? Yes/No
Do you have an existing DBS (CRB) check ? Yes/No
Nat Ins Number
Age range 18-24, 25-49, 50+
> Then comes some small print – very small print in this case…
The information we collect about you and how we use it depends mainly on the reason for your business with us. But we may use it for any of the Department’s purposes, which include – social security benefits and allowances, child support, employment and training, private pensions policy, and retirement planning.
We may get information from others to check the information you give to us and to improve our services. We may give information to other organizations as the law allows, for example to safeguard against crime.
To find out more about how we use information , visit our website http://www.dwp.gov.uk/privacypolicy or contact any of our offices.
Office use only – Interview with JCP Work coach arranged – date
> So there we are – what should we make of this ? Perhaps I’m just getting paranoid ?
On the other hand…
The most worrying question is why you should have to justify not persuing work in the Social Care sector.
Given the potential opportunities for various kinds of abuse, shouldn’t you also have to state why you did want to take this route ?
Once this piece of paper is in the system, it will inevitably wind up in the paws of your friendly Advisor – sorry, Work Coach – the same person who, in order to hit their targets, will be looking for any excuse to sanction you. And if you’ve declined this route, they might well try to twist things – refusing offers of work, refusing training, etc.
The other thing that occurs to me is that this might be a backdoor Workfare recruitment ploy. You actually might want training and a career in Social Care… what you might get is 6 months unpaid labour, mopping floors and emptying chamber pots for the greater profits of private enterprise.
As the form itself says – Social Care covers a very wide range of jobs. And who decides what falls within that range ? Guess (and it won’t be you…)
So all in all, I decided not to participate – the form itself suggests it’s voluntary. In the event, though, nobody asked me for the completed form anyway.
In the event of this happening again next time I sign, I shall decline immediately.
One other thing – the form does not carry a DWP identification code, which suggests this is not an official DWP document.
Is this just a local inititive or are these forms being handed out all over the country ? Anyone else had one ?