North East councils take funding fears to Westminster

Representatives of 12 councils will join North East MPs to warn of the damage £109m of cuts will do to the region

Tim Ireland/PA Wire The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London
The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London

Political leaders from across the North East will meet ministers next week to plead for a rethink over plans to take another £109m away from the region.

Representatives of 12 councils will join North East MPs at Westminster to warn that further cuts will hit vital services such as social care - and damage the economy.

It follows the Government’s announcement in December that budgets for North East councils in the financial year beginning this April will be cut by £109m.

Durham’s “spending power”, a figure which combines a number of sources of council income including government grants and council tax, is set to fall by £19m while Newcastle will lose £14.6m and Sunderland will lose £13.9m.

The delegation to Westminster, when council leaders will meet Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis, was organised by the Association of North East Councils (ANEC).

Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and ANEC Chair, said: “We very much welcome the opportunity to meet with Brandon Lewis next week as part of the Government’s current consultation on the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2014/15, on which we have been asked to submit views.

“We are particularly keen to highlight with the Department for Communities and Local Government the implications of proposals that will result in higher than the English average reductions in spending power in local authority areas across the North East, while many more affluent areas of the country will benefit from increases in spending power.”

Newcastle City Council’s former leader Lord Beecham, who continues to be a Labour councillor in the city, spelled out the impact in his ward of the cuts, as he spoke in the House of Lords.

He said: “Rent and council tax arrears are mounting, and evictions may follow though the council is doing all it can to help.

“Non-statutory youth provision is being cut, a play centre has closed and another voluntary centre is under threat.”

Concerns were also raised by Labour MP for Newcastle North Catherine McKinnell, who said the city was being forced to make savings of £108m by 2016.

She said: “Although the spending power of cities such as Newcastle is being significantly cut, the spending power of some of the wealthiest and least deprived areas of the country is not only being protected but increased under this Government.”

Responding for the Government, Brandon Lewis said the Government had been forced to cut spending overall because it inherited a huge deficit from Labour.

He added: “Every bit of the public sector must do its bit to pay off Labour’s deficit . . . our hats should go off to local government for the impressive work it has done, because we have shown that we can make those savings and still deliver good front-line services.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer