Local Government Financing

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 8:36 pm on 29th June 2010.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge 8:36 pm, 29th June 2010

We had 13 years, but we dealt with it and now almost every single council house in this country is up to standard.

Many chief executives are expecting a tsunami of cumulative funding cuts, with many saying that they will ramp up charges for sales, fees and services. Mr Spencer talked about local government bureaucracy, particularly in relation to the example of free school meals given by my hon. Friend Roberta Blackman-Woods. Finland manages to provide free school meals for every child from four to 19, without the bureaucracy mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I do not accept his argument, and the cuts to free school meals pilots will not be forgotten.

The revenue cut for Barnsley is £2.75 million, a 1% cut to be put in place over a nine-month period-or, when other cuts are added, a £3.2 million cut in cash terms. However, the main focus of the cuts in Barnsley is the £1.7 million cut in the education area grant, whereby vulnerable children will be disproportionately affected. When that is coupled with a cut of £750,000 to the working neighbourhoods fund, it becomes obvious that the deprived, and those who most need help in Barnsley, are being targeted by the coalition.

Sheffield is England's fourth largest city and ranks at No. 63 on the scale of multiple deprivation. Its cut is £6.5 million, or 1% of its budget, over nine months. This cut in funding has to be put alongside the withdrawal of £12 million of funding for the cleaning up of the Outokumpu site, the withdrawal of £12 million of funding for the redevelopment of the city centre, and the cancellation of the £80 million loan to Forgemasters, all of which mean that the coalition seems to have taken a sledgehammer to the city, making Sheffield probably one of the worst affected cities in terms of the impact of the coalition's ideological approach to government.

If that were the end of the story, it would be bad enough, but on top of these cuts the national funding for local transport plans has been reduced by 25%, with a number of major schemes, including improvements to the road network, now being put on hold. In addition, the local integrated transport authority has indications of a 38% cut, which could mean for Barnsley a cut of £4.2 million. Government Members ought to tell me how people in Barnsley are going to get to work if their bus services and transport networks are to be so severely impacted by the cuts that are on the table. Interestingly, one of the aims of the coalition was a greener future. With cuts on this scale, there is no doubt that more people will be forced to use private cars. Even more worrying is the fact that, yet again, it will be the poor and the old, and those who cannot afford to use a car, who will suffer the most.

According to the Chancellor, this is only the beginning, with Departments being asked to make, on average, 25% cuts in their budgets as the required outcome of the comprehensive spending review. However, with spending on health and international development protected, the cuts in some Departments will have to be much larger than 25%. I started by saying how important I believe local government is. With, in some cases, cuts of about 38% being talked about, I fear very deeply that there are many things that local authorities will not be able to do in future.

Let us settle once and for all the claim that this coalition is progressive. The poor, the vulnerable and the least well-off will suffer the most as these cuts bite. As Brendan Barber has said,

"Not just the poor, but those on middle incomes will pay a heavy price for the government's rush to close the deficit...and rising joblessness will add up to a perfect storm".

Never mind fixing the roof while sun is shining-this coalition Government are set to trigger the perfect storm.

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