The Prime Minister has been accused of ‘living in a parallel universe’ after announcing that councils in the North East could make more cuts.
In an interview with us, Conservative leader David Cameron has said that more budget reductions would be imposed – whichever party won the next election.
He insists that councils could make further savings without damaging services, however leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes has said cuts in the North East had already been “savage and brutal”.
Coun Forbes said:
“The Prime Minister is living in a parallel universe The disproportionate cuts his Government have made to northern councils like Newcastle have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be met through efficiencies – they have been savage and brutal.
“I’d like the Prime Minister to visit Newcastle so he can see for himself the devastating impact of his policies on the most vulnerable in our society – but we’re not his kind of people up here so I doubt he’ll come anywhere near.”
However Mr Cameron said that local councils can continue ‘to find efficiencies’.
“I think local government has done brilliantly at being more efficient.
“And I think when you look at councils’ finances they can continue to find efficiencies by continuing to work together and sharing chief executives, sharing finance teams, sharing back office costs.
“Most councils have seen a large increase in their reserves over the last four or five years, so they do have financial capacity.
“And just like any business you don’t make efficiencies and then say, right, that’s it, I’ve finished.
“Businesses are always asking, how do I get more efficient next year than last year?
“So I think there is still more efficiency to be delivered.”
The comments came despite claims by local authorities in the North East that they have already been cut to the bone.
For example, Newcastle City Council has set out plans for £40million of cuts in 2015 to 2016, on top of £100m saved from budgets since 2012. The measures will lead to the loss of a further 260 jobs.
Coun Forbes said:
“Newcastle City Council has had to cope with budget losses of more than 40% over six years and has lost 2,200 staff since 2010 – the equivalent of the closure of Virgin Money HQ, or Fenwicks department store, or the shutdown of the entire offshore sector on the North bank of the Tyne.
“If this was the private sector there would be a national task force in place to deal with this scale of job losses but we’ve had to deal with this challenge without any assistance from Government.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015
Stagnating North East house prices are undermining George Osborne’s Budget, MPs have warned.
Labour has hit out at claims the region is set to benefit from the Chancellor’s latest Budget, despite many of the measures being welcomed by the North East Chamber of Commerce.
As the Budget debate continues in Parliament, Hexham Conservative Guy Opperman spoke up for what he said were Government policies helping grow the North East economy.
He told MPs: “In the North East, the Help to Buy scheme is absolutely transforming the housing market. In Humbles Wood in Prudhoe, a housing development in my area, 90% of new purchases have been through Help to Buy. That must be good news.”
But his claim riled North Durham MP Kevan Jones, who quipped that the Conservatives are likely to adopt “Happy Days are Here Again as their 2015 General Election theme tune” but said people wouldn’t be fooled into believing everything was rosy.
He told the House of Commons: “I am not sure what nirvana the honourable member for Hexham lives in if he thinks that the housing market in the North East is booming. Average house prices here are still £5,000 lower than in 2008; that compares to an increase of about £77,000 in London.
“The honourable gentleman also fails to recognise that 16% of people in the North East are still in negative equity. The idea that somehow the housing market in the region is booming is wrong. We have a two-speed Britain – a booming South East and London, and a stagnating North.”
“The honourable member for Hexham described Hexham, which is a nice constituency, and the North East, but he is living in some type of parallel universe if he thinks that the North East economy is booming. Well-paid jobs in the public and private sectors have been replaced by low-paid zero-hours contracts.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 03 April 2014