North East Lincolnshire Council cuts worse than feared as another £5m is wiped off budget
COUNCIL bosses will write to the Government claiming unfair treatment after the authority's spending power was cut by more than five per cent next year.
Martin Vickers MP has also pledged to raise the issue with ministers if it can be shown that North East Lincolnshire has been given a raw deal.
According to new figures from North East Lincolnshire Council, it will be hit with a drop in spending power of about £150 per person in 2013-14 – significantly more than neighbouring North Lincolnshire and East Lindsey.
Bosses said the financial settlement given to the authority by the government was worse than previously feared, as revealed on www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk yesterday.
When the settlement was announced in December, the government said NELC's funding would be reduced by two per cent.
However, after examining the details of other separate government grants over Christmas, finance chiefs say the overall reduction in spending power is 5.2 per cent – with just weeks to find the savings before the budget is set.
NELC will have to find an extra £8 million in savings by the end of 2015-16 – including a further £5-million in the next financial year, 2013-14.
This is on top of the additional £7-million announced in October, and means the authority will have cut £58 million from its budget over five years – equating to a cut of £31,000 every day.
The reduction in spending power includes cuts of:
£2.9 million to the Dedicated To Schools Grant.
£2 million for Central Education Services.
£1 million in funding from the New Homes Bonus scheme.
NELC is also having to put an extra £1 million into Children and Safeguarding Services in response to increased demand of 74 per cent.
Leader Chris Shaw said: "The cut in grant is extremely unfair. Local government is one of the most effective parts of the public sector and to attack it in this way makes absolutely no sense, particularly as more and more people are having to turn to us for help in these difficult economic times.
"The Government is handing over responsibility for a range of services to us but before they do so they are taking away a chunk of the funding."
Councillor Shaw also criticised the timing of the settlement. It gives the authority very little time to prepare next year's budget, which will be set on February 21.
Delays to announcements on housing benefits and public health funding also added to the uncertainty, he said.
And although it was too early to say where the cuts would fall, he warned that a number of existing services were "vulnerable".
A report compiled by Newcastle Council has shown that NELC will see its spending power reduced by £155.76 per person in 2013-14 – the 27th biggest reduction of all local authorities in England.
In comparison, North Lincolnshire will see a £63.42 reduction, and East Lindsey a cut of £55.90.
Deputy leader Mick Burnett continued: "Getting the settlement so late means it is very difficult to plan ahead. We won't know what the budget is until we find out what public health funding will be given to us, but we can second guess that the money currently provided will be top-sliced.
Mr Vickers said: "If the council asks for my assistance, I will do all I can to make representations on its behalf.
"If it can provide some evidence to show that it is losing out compared to other authorities then I will be more than happy to put its case to ministers.
"But the Government is not going to take any notice of authorities crying wolf; it will want evidence that the council is being unfairly penalised and that it is spending money wisely."
Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell was unavailable for comment but previously said the settlement would "weaken local government and reduce what it can deliver for people".