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Southampton faces another £15m of council cuts
SOUTHAMPTON has been hammered with a further £15m of council cuts – while other Hampshire authorities will enjoy a rise.
The city council will lose 7.1 per cent of its “spending power” between 2014 and 2016, or more than £1 in every £14 in its budget, ministers announced.
Yet Test Valley (6.8 per cent) and Hampshire County Council (2.4 per cent) will receive a spending boost over the two-year period, official figures show.
Southampton City Council has already announced £13.5m of cuts for 2014/15, which will see almost 100 jobs go and council tax rise by 1.99 per cent.
Council bosses say their Government grant funding has been cut by 35 per cent since 2011/12, and that they will be forced into a further £48m of cuts after 2014/15.
The stark divide provoked angry clashes in the Commons, where Itchen MP John Denham accused the Government of punishing the poorest areas with the largest cuts.
Mr Denham said his Labour colleagues were wrong to protest that “all the cuts have fallen in the north and not in the south”.
He said: “The Government has, in fact, been just as vicious in cutting the budgets of the most deprived towns and cities in the south of England. They are looking after the more prosperous councils wherever they are.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said county councils, such as Hampshire, had been given extra cash to meet rising social care costs.
However, Southampton City Council, as a unitary authority, is also responsible for social care and faces similar challenges.
In the Commons, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis provoked astonishment when he told MPs: “This is a good news day for local government.”
Mr Lewis added: “We have tried to be fair to every part of the country.”
And he told any council planning frontline cuts to stop “playing political games”, advising it should “be more efficient with its back office and look at how to use its reserves to invest for the future.”
Town halls were again urged to freeze council tax next year, although they are not fully reimbursed by Whitehall for the cost of doing so. And ministers hinted they may lower the threshold at which any proposed rise triggers a local referendum. At present, it stands at two per cent.
The “spending power” measure includes funds from council tax, locally retained business rates and the New Homes Bonus, as well as Government grants.
Critics argue the level of reduction in grant is a more accurate measure of the pain ahead for town halls, but those figures were not published yesterday.
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