It may be the season of goodwill but the Government has given Yorkshire’s councils a massive financial headache to resolve in the New Year.
For the fifth year running budgets across the county have been slashed. This is likely to lead to more job losses, more libraries closing and services for the elderly, children and vulnerable residents suffering across Yorkshire.
This year’s cuts will hit people living in three of region’s big cities – Hull, Bradford and Sheffield – particularly hard.
Those areas will suffer a cut of more than double the national average per household. This will happened at a time when Surrey will get a budget increase of 3%.
In Hull, this will mean cuts of nearly £127 per household next year, a decision local MP Karl Turner called “staggering”.
He told the Hull Daily Mail: “It seems perverse the Government is making the biggest cuts to the most deprived councils and it beggars belief Hull has seen a cut that is almost four per cent greater than the UK average.”
Sheffield City Council had already produced a cartoon video for residents earlier this year laced with stringing criticism of a government part-led by Nick Clegg, their local MP.
Leeds Council Leader Keith Wakefield, who will need to find £76m in budget savings, said the authority faced “grim choices”.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We have tried as hard as possible to limit the impact on frontline services but it’s unavoidable that whatever we do now is going to be very painful.”
The anger of council bosses is easy to understand.
Figures compiled by Newcastle City Council, one of the hardest hit, show that more than £120 less per head is already being spent for everyone living in Yorkshire than it was four years ago.
Note: These following figures are per person while the ones above are per dwelling.
This figure grows to nearly £160 when it comes to the county’s big cities, which have seen even deeper cutbacks. Both figures are significantly higher than the national average.
There have also been allegations the deep cuts in the north are politically motivated.
This gap will only increase when the newly announced cutbacks kick in this April.
Funding is also getting tighter for Yorkshire’s fire services, with the West Yorkshire, Humberside and South Yorkshire services working with 4.4% less money next year. The North Yorkshire service will lose 2.4% of their budget.
However this could all yet just be the tip of the iceberg.
The government’s future spending cuts, outlined in the recent Autumn Statement, were labelled as “colossal” by finance experts ahead of next May’s General Election.
Under a future Conservative administration public spending (as an average across the UK) would fall from £5,650 per head in 2009-10 to £3,880 in 2019-20.
Defending this week’s cutbacks, Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins, the MP for Keighley, told the BBC the government had “delivered a settlement that is fair for all parts of the country, whether North or South, urban or rural”.
He added: “Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to substantially receive more funding and we continue to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4% in spending power in 2015-16, the lowest level in this Parliament.”
But it is hardly surprising that Yorkshire’s regional leaders are critical when millions of pounds are disappearing at the same time as the Chancellor George Osborne has spoken of his desire for a “northern powerhouse”.
— James Reed (@JamesReedYP) December 9, 2014
Picture: Angry residents protests at cuts to public services in Calderdale (OccupyMCR/Flickr)