NEWCASTLE has joined forces with two of the UK’s largest cities to warn of civil unrest if “unfair” cuts continue.
The Labour council leader of Newcastle, Nick Forbes, has joined up with party colleagues in Sheffield and Liverpool to warn of increased crime if the Government does not look again at how it distributes funding cuts.
In Newcastle the council has to save £90m over the next three years, although more than half of this is as a result of rising cost pressures.
Those budget worries have seen the council forced to axe more than 1,300 jobs and close libraries and swimming pools in an attempt to safeguard a greater percentage of cash for care services.
Among the more controversial moves has been a proposal to scrap financial support for cultural organisations, though this cut would equal only between 5 and 14% of income for those venues effected.
Mr Forbes said, in a joint letter to a Sunday newspaper, millions of families were suffering the “dire economic consequences” of the Government’s Dickensian view of the world.
The letter says: “Rising crime, increasing community tension and more problems on our streets will contribute to the break-up of civil society if we do not turn back. The one nation Tory brand of conservatism recognised the duty of government to help the country’s most deprived in the belief that economic and social responsibility benefited us all.
“The unfairness of the Government’s cuts is in danger of creating a deeply divided nation. We urge them to stop what they are doing now and listen to our warnings before the forces of social unrest start to smoulder.”
As well as the previous cuts handed to councils, and a 2% additional cut this month, local authorities across the north say they are increasingly concerned about the effects of the Government’s New Home Bonus.
This pays councils for every new property built, but is funded out of money taken from councils’ day-to-day spending. The results, Newcastle and others say, is money going from the deprived North to the South as London and others continue to build more in-demand homes.
In rural areas councils have warned of unfair cuts, with many saying they are weighing up a judicial review of the spending settlement for local authorities because it was “grossly unfair”.
Communities’ Secretary Eric Pickles prompted warnings of more reductions in services when he announced English councils would have spending power reduced by 1.7%. Mr Pickles claimed the settlement represented a “bargain” for local authorities, adding the Government would offer support for the third year.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to help pay off the inherited budget deficit. This is a fair settlement, fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and metropolitan areas.”