Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

LAST Week, the Government [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

LAST Week, the Government [...]

Article excerpt

Byline: COLUMNIST DAVID TAYLOR-GOOBY

LAST week, the government announced a "transitional settlement" for local government - a fund of PS300m to help local authorities cope with the effects of the reductions in funding. Many Tory authorities, and the MPs representing them, had threatened to rebel against the long-term settlement for local government, which will shift the burden of funding it from central government grant to funding raised locally.

Such a settlement, of course, would harm those authorities with low tax bases and fewer businesses, such as many in the North East.

So is a transitional fund a good idea? Not when you read the small print - 83% of the funding went to Conservative controlled councils, and just 5% to Labour ones. Durham didn't get a bean. Surprise, surprise, the Tory MPs who had threatened to rebel suddenly found they had changed their minds. Labour MPs were furious.

Looking at the small print, I noticed that some outer-London boroughs had been well treated. Nothing to do with the coming mayoral elections of course. Even some Tories called it a "political bung".

That is the sort of government local authorities are dealing with, and I think this colours the debate about the proposed combined authority of Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Many will think, what is the point of signing up to this when the government pursues a policy of "slash and burn" with our finances. Is it not all a big con, or would we be better ganging up to deal with them? I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to see the results of the devolution poll carried out for Durham County Council, where 21.7% of those eligible to vote did. That can be interpreted in several ways. It is more than voted for the police commissioner and some councillors. Does it mean many people aren't bothered? Without asking them we do not know, but perhaps they feel that councillors and MPs are elected to do these jobs, and they are happy to let them get on with it. I do not think it shows violent opposition to the proposals - 59. …

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