Sunderland City Council leader accuses Government of 'setting Labour councils up to fail' with changes to national funding formula

Sunderland's leading Labour politician says Government plans to change the way local authorities are funded will benefit southern councils at the expense of the north.

Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 4:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 4:13 pm
Coun Graeme Miller

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Graeme Miller has criticised ‘in the strongest possible terms’ proposals to adjust the funding formula for local council finance, that will remove weighting to reflect the higher costs of poverty and deprivation.

The city's Labour group says levels of poverty in the North East among the highest in the country, with 4,000 more children in poverty since 2010, an increase of 37 per cent.

Coun Millerr said: “These changes will punish most those that need the most support.

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"More than counter-intuitive, this feels like a very cynical attempt by the Tory Government to siphon additional funding into those authorities that are already cash rich, stealing from the hands of the poorest authorities and therefore people, in the country.

"For cash-strapped authorities in deprived areas, where the need for local government intervention is at its greatest, these changes will force further impossible compromises that ultimately let down people.

"We have faced some heart-breaking decisions already when it comes to directing funding. How close to the bone does this Government have to cut funding before it realises that enough is enough?

Coun Miller added: "We really shouldn’t be surprised by these proposals. This Government – with the most devastating track record of decision-making that attacks the poorest people in the country - is proposing yet another disastrous change that will set up Labour councils to fail their communities, while affluent areas continue to roll in unneeded additional cash."

Coun Miller’s comments have been echoed by political leaders up and down the country, with Coun Richard Watts, the leader of Islington Council and chair of Labour’s local government resources group, describing the proposed changes as a ‘brutal political stitch-up’.

Coun Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said removing deprivation from the formula was “grossly unfair” and “illogical,” while Newcastle City Council leader Coun Nick Forbes said the proposal would “be to the serious detriment of urban, economically and socially disadvantaged areas, which also mainly happen to be Labour-run council areas.

"It’s utterly mendacious."