St Helens Council leader says funding reforms unfair on the town

Council leader Derek Long
Council leader Derek Long
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The north of England has been hit hardest by austerity, a new report has revealed.

The new study from the independent thinktank, Centre for Cities, shows a clear geographical divide in where cuts over the past decade have fallen, with the top five worst affected cities all located in the north of England.

While St Helens did not feature in the report, a lot of the findings mirror the financial struggles faced by the local authority over the past decade.

By 2020, the council will have seen its funding slashed by £90 million over the ten-year period.

This equates to £507 less per person to spend on services than in 2010.

Council leader Derek Long said: “Half of St Helens’ spending power has been cut since 2011.

“So, St Helens’ residents won’t be surprised that northern cuts are over twice as large as southern ones.

“The government’s choices mean places with the greatest need bear the greatest burden for providing services.

“The positive news is we are working to raise money from different approaches.

“But this takes time and will never replace the £90 million we have lost.”

Coun Long said the council fears the government’s upcoming fair funding review – which will set new funding baselines for every local authority – will shift even further resources to the south.

The Labour leader said: “We worry that government is thinking about even more transfers to southern counties by introducing a system that doesn’t recognise deprivation and need.

“They might badge this under as fair funding reform, but I certainly do not see this as fair on St Helens.”

According to the Cities Outlook report, seven of the 10 cities with the largest cuts are in the North East, North West or Yorkshire, and on average northern cities saw a cut of 20% to their spending.

In contrast, cities in the East, South East and South West, excluding London, saw a cut of 9%.

On a per capita basis, Liverpool has been the worst hit by austerity.

Its £441 million reduction in spending equates to £816 fall for every resident in the city.

In terms of absolute cuts, London has been the hardest hit, with a total of £3.9 billion removed from services spending.

Only two cities, Oxford and Luton, have seen increases in overall spending, with real terms increase of 15 per cent and 21 per cent respectively in their day-to-day spending.