Austerity hitting cities twice as hard

A new report has claimed that cities and urban areas across Britain have been hit hardest by cuts to local government funding.

The Cities Outlook 2019 report, produced by Centre for Cities, finds that cities have borne 74 per cent of all real-terms local government funding cuts in the last decade despite being home to just 54 per cent of the population. This is equivalent to a reduction of £386 per city dweller since 2009/10, compared to £172 per person living elsewhere.

The Cities Outlook 2019 report also highlights a clear geographical divide in where cuts to cities have fallen, with the top five worst affected cities, Barnsley, Liverpool, Doncaster, Wakefield and Blackburn, all located in the North of England. The cities in the North of England on average endured spending cuts of 20 per cent compared to nine per cent for those cities in the South West, East of England and South East (excluding London). Barnsley has seen a 40 per cent reduction in its day-to-day council spending since 2009/10.

Centre for Cities warns that cities in the North of England tend to have weaker economies and are more reliant on central government funding, meaning that, more often than not, the cities least equipped to absorb the loss of central government grant have been hardest hit.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Cities drive our national economy and, while austerity has improved local government efficiency, its sheer scale has placed public services in many of our most populated cities under huge pressure. Cities Outlook 2019 shows that the cities most affected are economically weaker and have been less able to absorb the loss of central government funding.  

“Councils have managed as best they can but the continued singling-out of local government for cuts cannot continue. There is a very real risk that many of our largest councils will in the near future become little more than social care providers. Fairer funding must mean more funding for cities. If, as the Prime Minister has said, austerity is coming to an end then the Spending Review must address the financial challenges facing cities. But this does not just mean more money. Giving local authorities more power to decide how they raise and spend funds, providing more flexible multi-year budgets and reforming the way social care is paid for also need to be urgently introduced.”

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “The Tories have shamefully stripped back funding for local authorities, leaving many councils on the brink of collapse and the vital public services that people rely on at breaking point. Councils have now lost 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour government invested in our communities. The government must stop targeting deprived areas with their politically motivated cuts and provide sustainable funding for councils to protect our local services.”


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