Southampton faces another £15m of council cuts

Daily Echo: City faces another £15m of council cuts City 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.

There will also be big cuts in Eastleigh (5.1 per cent), New Forest (4.8 per cent) and the Isle of Wight (4.6 per cent) – and, in particular, Gosport (10.3 per cent).

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.

Comments (5)

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3:01pm Thu 19 Dec 13

southy says...

Get a Tory Government and all you get is cuts, diverting much needed state money into private sector.
Get a Tory Government and all you get is cuts, diverting much needed state money into private sector. southy

4:28pm Thu 19 Dec 13

TurquoiseJ says...

It doesn't help that people do not fill out their census forms or register to vote, as these numbers inform local and national spending.
It doesn't help that people do not fill out their census forms or register to vote, as these numbers inform local and national spending. TurquoiseJ

4:42pm Thu 19 Dec 13

FoysCornerBoy says...

This is very bleak midwinter news indeed. The way things are going there will soon be very little left of local government - at best collecting the rubbish, protecting our must vulnerable children and arranging the barest minimum levels of care to severely disabled people and the frail elderly. You can forget all the rest.

Senior Whitehall civil servants are predicting that next year as many as 40 English councils are at real risk of going bust.

Perhaps that's what people like Eric Pickles and David Cameron want. And I wonder whether - down at heart - local people really care. Low turnouts at council elections suggest that either most people don't have much interest in local democracy or (more probably) low levels of confidence in the mainstream political parties.

I worry that vital public services in Southampton provided by the Council and the NHS are at the gravest risk due to the government's austerity policies. With signs that we may now be coming out of the recession it would make sense to ease up on the pressure on public spending. In places like Southampton major public service cutbacks and the resultant job losses next year could well tip the local economy back into recession.

Interestingly local Southampton conservatives have belatedly cottoned onto this and are beseeching the Labour administration to massively increase council taxes in order to avert major service reductions. They are understandably reluctant to advance this policy themselves as this might upset the senior Tory hierarchy.

My sources advise me that elsewhere in the South East (e.g. Buckinghamshire and Surrey) radical conservatives are threatening to break with their national party line and set council taxes in the general election year (2015) at well above the government's 2% limit. This could be interesting.
This is very bleak midwinter news indeed. The way things are going there will soon be very little left of local government - at best collecting the rubbish, protecting our must vulnerable children and arranging the barest minimum levels of care to severely disabled people and the frail elderly. You can forget all the rest. Senior Whitehall civil servants are predicting that next year as many as 40 English councils are at real risk of going bust. Perhaps that's what people like Eric Pickles and David Cameron want. And I wonder whether - down at heart - local people really care. Low turnouts at council elections suggest that either most people don't have much interest in local democracy or (more probably) low levels of confidence in the mainstream political parties. I worry that vital public services in Southampton provided by the Council and the NHS are at the gravest risk due to the government's austerity policies. With signs that we may now be coming out of the recession it would make sense to ease up on the pressure on public spending. In places like Southampton major public service cutbacks and the resultant job losses next year could well tip the local economy back into recession. Interestingly local Southampton conservatives have belatedly cottoned onto this and are beseeching the Labour administration to massively increase council taxes in order to avert major service reductions. They are understandably reluctant to advance this policy themselves as this might upset the senior Tory hierarchy. My sources advise me that elsewhere in the South East (e.g. Buckinghamshire and Surrey) radical conservatives are threatening to break with their national party line and set council taxes in the general election year (2015) at well above the government's 2% limit. This could be interesting. FoysCornerBoy

6:00pm Thu 19 Dec 13

George4th says...

As the Labour have apologised for just about every Policy they ever imposed on this country, it's safe to say who got us into this mess................
.....

There is NO escaping from the horrendous Debt if our young and future generations are to have any chance at all.................

Many people in this country still do not see how deep in the Doo Dah we still are! Yes, the coalition is taking us in the right direction, and we have to pay the price.

Labour did nothing to invest in the future of UK Plc when the economy was booming - they simply spent and spent and spent and then borrowed to spend loads more! Totally and utterly ludicrous!!
As the Labour have apologised for just about every Policy they ever imposed on this country, it's safe to say who got us into this mess................ ..... There is NO escaping from the horrendous Debt if our young and future generations are to have any chance at all................. Many people in this country still do not see how deep in the Doo Dah we still are! Yes, the coalition is taking us in the right direction, and we have to pay the price. Labour did nothing to invest in the future of UK Plc when the economy was booming - they simply spent and spent and spent and then borrowed to spend loads more! Totally and utterly ludicrous!! George4th

9:24pm Thu 19 Dec 13

Inform Al says...

Never mind, in 2015 we will get a government that is fair to all, not just the Tory controlled councils.
Never mind, in 2015 we will get a government that is fair to all, not just the Tory controlled councils. Inform Al

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