North East council leaders plead for fairness over cuts

MINISTERS have heard a double plea for action as councils across the country push for funding changes.

MINISTERS have heard a double plea for action as councils across the country push for funding changes.

The North East’s 12 council leaders have sent a message to the Government arguing for a re-think in how budget cuts are distributed, while in Liverpool UK council chiefs met to discuss a united response.

Paul Watson, chair of the Association of North East Councils (Anec), has hit out at a funding system which he and others say is seeing money for elderly care and other services diverted to Southern councils.

Mr Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, and Durham leader Simon Henig have met with local government minister Brandon Lewis to say Government funding seems to be overlooking the deprivation needs in the North East.

Mr Watson said: “We hope ministers will give careful consideration to the issues and concerns Anec has highlighted to ensure that we get a fair settlement, which is what Government has stated it is committed to do – fair to North and South, rural and urban, shire and Metropolitan England.”

A particular source of frustration was the New Homes Bonus scheme, which the association says significantly disadvantages the North East.

Councils in the region will pay in more than they receive, with the outcome being that wealthier areas with high council tax bases benefit and those in the North lose out.

Mr Watson added: “In highlighting the distributional impacts and consequences of policies such as New Homes Bonus, as well as other critical issues for North East authorities, we are urging the Government to take full account of the impacts across all parts of the country.

“The examples we have provided which show wide disparities between councils in the North East and those in the South speak for themselves.”

He was speaking as faith and council leaders from England’s biggest cities met in Liverpool to discuss how to tackle Government cuts. The event, entitled Come Together, was led by Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, and the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones.

They were joined by Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes and the Very Rev Chris Dalliston, Dean of St Nicholas Cathedral in the city.

The dean has already said the cuts distribution is a sign of “a profound sickness at the heart of our society”.

The group launched a parliamentary e-petition calling for a debate in the House of Commons.


David Whetstone
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