Since 2010 our main preoccupation in Knowsley has been mitigating the effects of continuous Government cuts.
In an area where many people are reliant on support from the council and where most houses fall into the lowest council tax banding, it has been one hell of a headache managing an increasing demand for services with far less money and limited opportunities to bring in more revenue.
Every independent study you care to think of that has looked at the impact of these cuts has recognised that areas like Knowsley, who face some of the biggest demand for services, have been the hardest hit. The reality is that according to Government figures we have lost the most funding, per household, than anywhere in the UK.
All of this has come at the same time that more affluent boroughs who boast far less demand for services and more income from top banded properties, have seen proportionally much less cash disappearing from their coffers. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that budget cuts hadn’t yet arrived in some of those local authority areas!
So I must admit that I was sickened last week when, after announcing the latest round of cuts to local government, the Government also announced that it would be providing ‘transitional funding’ to 140 councils. So how much did Knowsley – widely accepted to be among the worst hit by Government cuts – receive from the transitional fund? NOTHING.
As has been reported in the media, of those 140 councils set to benefit from this funding – proposed to help ‘hardest hit’ areas – it is estimated that 83% will go to southern conservative-led councils. In fact, less than 10% of the total funding will go to any council in the north of England.
Residents in Knowsley have a right to feel angry about this. I am certainly angry on your behalf. It simply cannot be fair or right. You have all lived with savings upon savings and seen services reduced year on year since 2010. The Government’s attitude towards places like ours has been that we must just “get on with it” and find a way to manage hefty budget cuts. Certainly no offers of transitional funding were ever made to help us!
We’ve reduced our spending by £75m since 2010 and we now know that between now and 2020 we must make another £46m of cuts. We’ve worked hard to minimise the impact of the savings so far but these next few years are going to hurt many people and we have no choice but to consider changing, reducing or even stopping many services in order to balance our books. After five years of freezing council tax we also have little choice but to consider raising it this year to help towards the cost of essential services.
On behalf of the City Region, Mayor Anderson has written directly to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to express our disgust and certainly our concern that this funding appears to have gone to predominantly southern councils – many of whom coincidentally share a similar political colour as the Government.
Once again the north south divide seems to be more than evident and I certainly share Mayor Anderson’s views expressed in the Liverpool Echo last week. How can this be fair?