Yesterday, communities secretary Eric Pickles outlined the future of funding for local councils, with dramatic cuts all round and a new ‘localism bill’. How is your area affected and are you concerned about the cuts?
Some of the country’s most deprived areas (Tower Hamlets, Rochdale and South Tyneside, amongst others) will take a maximum cut of 8.9% in their funding, while other areas like West Sussex, Wokingham and Richmond upon Thames get 1% or below.
On average, said Eric Pickles, councils will see their ‘spending power’ fall by 4.4% next year. But where will the cuts be made and how will they affect our lives? Obviously, a lot will depend on your local area, but here’s an overview of some of the main areas that will feel the squeeze.
Services like libraries, leisure centres and social services will be affected, especially in more deprived areas where cuts are biggest.
We know from a previous Conversation – ‘Libraries – use them or lose them‘ – that many of you rely on libraries and would hate to see them go. ‘Thank you for further raising this issue and highlighting the value of public libraries! I rely on mine extensively for CDs, DVDs and books – it saves me a fortune!’ said David Jenkins. Another commenter, Pickle, agreed, ‘I’m all for libraries – they are cheap and are good community centres. Keep them as they are.’
By 2014-15 the road repairs budget will drop by 15%, from £834m to £707m. Just last month our Cars Researcher, George Marshall-Thornhill, asked ‘Why are the nation’s roads in such a sorry state?‘ and your responses show how much of an issue these cuts will be.
‘The state of many major [A] roads in Norfolk and Suffolk leaves a lot to be desired. The authorities are already saying loud and clear that money will be short over the next few years so highway reconstruction will be severely restricted,’ said John.
Commenter James Harrison argued that the funding problem is related to how councils pay for the work. ‘The vast majority of our tarmac roads are very old and our councils/government don’t wish to spend the money properly on deep tarmac,’ he alleged. ‘Instead they tender out to the lowest bidder a contract to spread tar covered with grit over the old tarmac, which looks good for a couple of weeks […] then, when the sun comes out, it melts and […] needs doing again.’
Police and education
The 43 police forces in England and Wales will see a 5.1% cut in funding next year and 6.7% cut in 2012-13. The Olympics has also received a shock reduction in policing budgets, from £600m to £475m.
Education funding has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, but there was a chink of light with the new ‘pupil premium’ announced yesterday. This will give schools an extra £430 for every pupil qualifying for free school meals.
The localism bill
Pickles also announced a range of measures in his ‘localism bill’. These included:
- New mayors in 12 cities
- People and organisations having the right to buy community assets like libraries, pubs and shops
- Giving communities more power over children’s centres, care homes and transport, questioning how they are run and potentially taking them over
- Giving individuals more power to overrule planning decisions
What’s your opinion on these cuts?
How do you think these announcements will affect your life in your local area and how will your council cope with the cuts? Do you think the government should target different areas or do you think it could have gone further?