Newcastle chiefs in plea to Prime Minister to end North-South funding divide

Newcastle City Council have signed a joint letter to Downing Street pleading for fairness in funding as the city braces itself for more cuts

Peter Byrne/PA Wire Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron

Some of the most influential people in Newcastle have signed a joint fairness plea to David Cameron as the city prepares for the latest round of cuts.

Newcastle Council will tonight agree to axe £35m of spending as part of a £108m three-year budget blow.

And as the council prepares for the hundreds of job losses to come as a result, a joint letter has gone to the Prime Minister urging him to address a North-South divide in government funding.

Citing cuts to the council, the police, fire services, health groups and advice centres, the joint letter says: “Newcastle is also affected by the way the Government has implemented cuts, focusing them more on areas of need.

“We are facing greater cuts than other parts of the country. Some places in the South are actually seeing an increase in funding. Further proof, if it were needed, that we are not in fact ‘all in this together’.”

Council leader Nick Forbes
Council leader Nick Forbes
 

Those backing the plea include Labour council Nick Forbes, Paul Walker, former head of multi-billion-pound software firm Sage and Paul Callaghan, now chairing the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and head of the successful Leighton group.

Their letter tells the PM: “While each cut in itself is damaging, the wider cumulative impact of cuts is potentially devastating and has not been fully assessed by the Government.

“We are not afraid of public sector reform and all have been involved in service transformation.

“However, the pace and scale of the cuts is limiting our ability to implement them in a sustainable way.

“Cuts will undoubtedly have an impact on people and that impact may well result in increased cost to the public sector in the medium to long-term.”

Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird
Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird
 

The letter, signed also by Northumbria Police commissioner Vera Baird, warns that the police have been handed a £67m budget cut “at a time when early indications suggest a rise in some types of crime, including mothers shoplifting nappies and food for their children”.

Newcastle Council is tonight set to pass the latest round of budget cuts, which include a mixture of a reduction in Government grant and an increase in costs.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors say the council is seeing spending down from £277.3m last year to £263.8m, meaning there is still considerable investment in the city.

Group leader Anita Lower said: “There is a lot of noise about cuts but councils around us are losing as much if not more and not making the same drastic cuts as Newcastle.

“We are lobbying hard to explain to our party leadership what effect these percentage cuts are having, and we would like to see a more equitable scheme introduced across the country, but there is still a lot Newcastle is doing with a considerable budget, and we feel the council should be more open about that.”

Who signed the letter?

Paul Callaghan, chairman of the NGI
Paul Callaghan, chairman of the NGI
 

The joint letter to the Prime Minister is signed by:

  • Coun Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council
  • Toby Lowe, Newcastle Culture Partnership
  • Shona Alexander, Chief Executive of Newcastle Citizens Advice
  • Paul Walker, Chair of Newcastle Science City
  • Guy Pilkington, Chair of Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Relton Cummings, Chair of Newcastle North and East Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Paul Callaghan, Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative
  • Chris Dalliston, Dean of St Nicholas Cathedral
  • Beth Farhat, Northern TUC
  • Sally Young, Chief Executive of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service
  • Pete Wilcox, FBU Regional Secretary
  • Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria
  • Barbara Redhead, Newcastle Schools Forum
  • Clare Williams, UNISON Regional Convenor

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