Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Why I Will Always Back the Council over Cameron

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Why I Will Always Back the Council over Cameron

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

BITING spending cuts are damaging councils' frontline services, the Prime Minister has been reminded by North East local authority leaders.

South Tyneside's Iain Malcolm and Newcastle's Nick Forbes have written to David Cameron about the brutal impact of austerity on local government in the North East after the PM lambasted his own council for imposing cuts.

Mr Cameron, MP for Witney, wrote to Oxfordshire council leader Ian Hudspeth saying he is "disappointed" at proposed "cuts to frontline services, from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums". But Coun Hudspeth hit back at the Tory leader in a five-page letter outlining how shrinking council budgets and new burdens on local government are decimating councils' ability to deliver.

The Tory council leader added the council's grants from government have fallen from PS194m a year in 2009/10 to PS122m this year. "I cannot accept your description of a drop in funding of PS72m ... as a 'slight fall'" he told the PM.

But the row between party colleagues sparked anger from Labour council leaders in the North East, with Coun Malcolm writing to the PM to say the council's spending power per person had dropped by "a staggering" PS655.

He and Coun Forbes applauded the Tory council leader for underlining the state of local government funding ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review on November 25, and are calling on the PM to rethink councils' funding.

Coun Malcolm said: "Councillor Hudspeth has made an important intervention here and I hope it allows HM Government to review the harmful consequences of your policy on the sustainability of local public services.

"Like our colleagues in Oxfordshire, we have had to manage unprecedented reductions in government grant, losing over PS100m from our base budget while accepting new statutory responsibilities and dealing with ever-increasing demand for our services. …

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