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‘Cuts have hit the poorest places most’

20 March 2015


Budget gap: Newcastle city council was one of the  case-studies for the research 

Budget gap: Newcastle city council was one of the  case-studies for the research 

THE poorest people in the most deprived areas in England have been hit hardest by government cuts since the last election, research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows.

Its report Cost of the Cuts analysed local-government expenditure and discovered that the poorest English authorities had seen reductions of more than £220 per head, compared with cuts of less than £40 per head in the least-deprived areas.

Services such as housing and planning were found to have been the most drastically affected. Social-care spending in poor areas has been cut by £65 per head, whereas in wealthier areas it has risen by £28 a head. Back in 2010-11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45 per cent of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17 per cent.

The report said that local councils had tried to minimise the cuts faced by the poorest, but it was an impossible task.

The report said: "The reality is that the poorest places and the poorest people are being the hardest hit, with those least able to cope with service withdrawal bearing the brunt of service reduction."

It recommends that the next government reduce the scale and pace of the cuts, shifting its agenda from short-term savings to longer-term reform. If not, then local authorities will be unable to fulfil their statutory duties and deliver "critical services" to their most vulnerable citizens, it warns.

As well as analysing local-authority spending, researchers also looked at four different local authorities in detail - one in Scotland, and three in England. They found that the pace of cuts in Scotland had been much slower than in England, giving the local authorities more time to invest in preventative measures to help people cope with the cuts.

The policy and research manager at JRF, Josh Stott, said: "The cuts have forced the pace of local service reform and there have been some positives, in terms of service redesign and new ways of working. However, we are now beginning to see the impacts of the cuts filter through to the quality of local services. There is a general consensus that we are only half-way through the cuts, and, if we continue on this course, it seems inevitable that the poorest people and places will be even harder hit. We need to rethink the pace of the cuts to allow local government the time and capacity to develop long-term solutions geared towards supporting people out of poverty."

The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said: "On a consistent basis, it is clear that the cuts to public-service spending required, or planned, are at least as big in the next parliament as those that have already happened."

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