William Eichler 12 October 2018

Southern councils criticise ‘misleading’ funding claims

Local authorities in the south of England have hit back against a Cambridge University analysis of local government funding that suggested southern councils had experienced ‘relatively minor’ service cuts.

Analysis in the university’s study The depth of the cuts was ‘misleading’ and served only to ‘pit councils against each other,’ according to South East England Councils (SEEC) and South East Strategic Leaders (SESL).

The study found that councils in England had suffered an average service spending fall of almost 24% since 2010, compared to 12% in Wales and 11.5% in Scotland.

All 46 councils that reduced spending by 30% or more are located in England, with the deepest cuts in the north, according to The depth of the cuts. Southern England, meanwhile, had experienced ‘relatively minor’ service cuts.

In response, a statement from SEEC and SESL has said that the report ‘misleads readers’ because it fails to look at how much grant each area receives and whether that amount matches a council’s needs.

This leaves readers with the impression that the highest cuts have led to the lowest spending on local services, a fact spokespeople for SEEC and SESL argue is ‘far from the situation.’

In the South East, for example, percentage cuts of 19% from 2009-10 to 2016-17 left councils spending an average £628 per person on local services, while in London percentage cuts were higher at 39% but the average spend per person also remained higher at £861.

‘This sort of misleading analysis simply serves to pit councils against each other,’ said Cllr Martin Tett chairman of SESL.

‘At the moment councils across the country are 'running on empty'. Many councils in the South East now receive no Government revenue funding whatsoever and have faced the prospect of 'negative RSG', in practice taking away local raised revenue.

‘Counties and unitaries in the South East face some of the greatest demographic pressures, particularly for adult social care and the highest level of costs. 

‘It is important for all councils that the Government resolves financial uncertainties quickly and confirms fair financial settlements for the coming years.’

Cllr Tett added that as leader of Buckinghamshire CC he did not ‘recognise the report's description of “relatively minor” service cuts.’

‘We have had to make major savings of hundreds of millions of pounds, with big reductions in virtually all services including parks, libraries, social care, community services, education and road maintenance,’ he said.

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