An e-petition and campaign has been launched to spark discussion on how to ‘stop the growing divide’ between the more prosperous and weak economies.
It is a well documented fact that local government has been amongst the worst affected under each successive budget since the Spending Review of 2010, suffering a real term cut of 35% between 2010-11 and 2015-16 according to latest estimates.
This average cut, hard though it is, is only the beginning of the bad news for some authorities however. Prior to 2010 and in the years following, reductions have been borne disproportionately by some of the neediest authorities in the country, withholding necessary funds from them to sustain income to wealthier authorities. During the savings and austerity programme it is the poorest regions that have been hit the hardest.
This is not set to change within the current agenda. Moving authority funding from a needs-based system will continue this trend of a growing divide between richest and poorest. In addition, an estimated £16 billion per annum will be removed from some of the neediest English regions as a result of welfare reform by 2014-15. Before the 2013 Spending Review, projections for 2017-18 suggested a difference of over £900 per head funding redistribution between the least and worst affected regions. The 2013 Spending Review will make this difference worse.
This trend cannot continue sustainably. Council leaders across the country have warned the Government of the risk of service failure from further cuts. Whilst some authorities have a budget that enables service provision, others have a budget that provides only for survival. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have confirmed that it is the poor who are feeling the squeeze most. Leading thinkers have shown that if our national economy becomes more regionally imbalanced there will be little chance of sustainable long term national prosperity.
A return to growth that leaves the poorest in our society behind is no return to growth that any of us want to see. A review of how to put fairness into the system is required by the poorest regions as they face future cuts.
The Government should not turn its back on those towns and cities that have made this country wealthy and must help regenerate such areas before the impact of current policies becomes irreversible. The e-petition can be signed online at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51366