Future of local authorities as we know it under threat, says TUC

Study explores the impact of cuts throughout the North East as Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, prepares to speak in Newcastle

UNISON leader Dave Prentis
UNISON leader Dave Prentis

Cuts are being made to vital children’s services and the future of local authorities as we know them is under threat, research published today suggests.

The Austerity Uncovered report by the think tank the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) says 11 out of 12 North East councils face a higher than average reduction in spending (3.9%).

The study, commissioned by the TUC, shows that the region is only half way through a nine-year spending cuts programme and that by 2016 local authorities will have shouldered a 37% cut.

It comes as Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis prepares to speak at a TUC conference in Newcastle today.

Nationally, the report says the total funding gap is forecast to increase at an average rate of £2.1bn per year until 2019–20 when it will reach £12.4bn.

The report says the planned cuts will mean a reduction of £91.93 per household for the North East, while the English average will be £71.58.

The Association of North East Councils believes this could mean spending on children’s services, adult social care and waste management could fall by almost 50%. Statutory services such as adult social care will not be left unscathed either, the report claims, with cuts of £49m in 2012–13 across the North East, with more expected through the next parliament.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “The government’s sledgehammer approach to public services has resulted in a growing social crisis for many of our communities.

Northern Region TUC Secretary Beth Farhat
Northern Region TUC Secretary Beth Farhat
 

“The cuts in the North East have been worse than many feared because the Coalition has chosen to make its deepest cuts to council services in areas of greatest deprivation.

“Not only are people losing their livelihoods but services are stretched to breaking point and the most vulnerable are paying the greatest price.

“The findings from this report show the urgent need for action to properly fund public services, otherwise divisions in society will continue to widen at pace.”

The TUC is calling for a needs-based approach to funding settlements that take into account places with higher levels of social and economic deprivation; greater devolution to a regional power; more funding for adult social care and children’s services.

Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Chief Executive Neil McInroy, said: “This report outlines the wide range of impacts on people and communities. The scale and depth of the austerity cuts are harming both our present and future.

“This research tells us that austerity affects all the country, though it bites deeper in poorer areas. It is a critical time for North East local authorities.

“It has, and continues, to be disproportionately impacted by austerity. The reduction in spending power means the local social safety net is being eroded, with a drop in quality of care.”

“The region’s public services are under huge strain and if they’re not being hacked apart from savage cuts from the Coalition government, chances are they are being put out for privatisation and profit.”

Clare Williams, chairwoman of the Northern Public Services Alliance and Unison Regional Convenor, said: “The Northern Public Services Alliance has been campaigning since 2010 and we have been heartened by the consistent support shown in defence of local services and public sector workers facing an uncertain future. It’s clear to us ministers do not have the backing of people to shred services in our region. People are rightly angry that corporate tax avoiders, the richest 1% and the bankers who caused the financial crisis continue to help themselves while local public services are cut to ribbons.”

The Public Services Summit takes place today at the Thistle County Hotel in Newcastle.

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