Austerity cuts ‘twice as deep’ in England

New research from the University of Cambridge has found that disproportionate spending cuts to local public services in poorer regions are likely to intensify perceived ‘territorial injustice’.

Analysis of local authority budgets reveals that the average reduction in service spending by councils was almost 24 per cent in England compared to just 12 per cent in Wales and 11.5 per cent in Scotland. Across Britain, the most severe cuts to local service spending between 2010 and 2017 were generally associated with areas of ‘multiple deprivation’.

The research suggests that post-industrial cities in the north of England, together with some inner-city London boroughs, have been hit by the deepest cuts to local government spending since the start of austerity in 2010, with cuts compounded by high levels of poverty and a lower capacity to mitigate cuts through local taxation or asset sales, the study found.

More than 30 council areas in England have experienced cuts in spending of over 30 per cent between 2010 and 2017, with seven councils – Westminster, Salford, South Tyneside, Slough, Wigan, Oldham and Gateshead hit by cuts of more than 40 per cent.

Mia Gray, who co-authored the study, said: “The idea that austerity has hit all areas equally is nonsense. “Local councils rely to varying degrees on the central government, and we have found a clear relationship between grant dependence and cuts in service spending.

“We are now seeing austerity policies turn into a downward spiral of disinvestment in certain people and places. Local councils in some communities are shrunk to the most basic of services. This could affect the life chances of entire generations born in the wrong part of the country.”

Richard Watts, the chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “Losing a further £1.3 billion of central government funding next year is going to tip many councils over the edge. Many local authorities will reach the point where they only have the funds to provide statutory responsibilities and it will be our local communities and economies who will suffer the consequences.”