The Tories and their LibDem lap dogs in Government have played a blinder with local Council budgets in the North East. Local Council finance is complicated but you need to understand a few basics to appreciate quite how much these Tory-led toffs have screwed Newcastle.
1) You pay Council Tax but the money Newcastle City Council collects in from Council Tax only covers about 11% of what we spend
2) The Council also collects in Business Rates (like Council Tax but for businesses) but unlike Council Tax we have to hand over the business rates to the Government – we don’t get to keep it
2) The bulk of the remaining 89% of our budget comes from the Government’s annual funding settlement – in simple terms the funding settlement is the amount of money that the Government gives us every year to cover what we have to spend to keep our Council services running.
3) Newcastle has a significantly higher than average need around children in care and vulnerable adults – as in we have more than other Councils. To put that into context; out of every pound that Newcastle City Council spends 47 pence of it is spent on vulnerable adults (i.e. elderly care, disabled care, adults with learning disabilities etc) and children’ services (i.e. schools, children in care, foster children etc…).
4) The Government uses something called the ‘funding formula calculation’ to work out how much money we need every year (it’s not, as you might imagine it to be, based on our own budget but rather on the Government telling us how much we’re getting). For the first time in history this Tory LibDem Government have removed ‘need’ as one of the criteria for deciding how much money we get. In other words they don’t take into account how much we need to spend on vulnerable adults or children, on the elderly, on kids in care or on anything else that is ‘need’ based.
5) The Tory LibDem Coalition’s meddling with the ‘funding formula calculation’ disproportionately affects Labour-run Councils. Why? In simple terms affluent Council’s (mainly down South) vote for the Tories and affluent Council areas don’t suffer from the same levels of health inequalities, deprivation, numbers of adult and children in care etc as we do. In even simpler terms rich people live longer and they’re healthier longer than poorer people. So… removing ‘need’ as one of the factors which determines how much money the Government give us to spend on Council services doesn’t affect Tory LibDem Councils near as much as it does Labour Councils in the North East where there are higher levels of deprivation.
Now that you have the basics let me tell you why at the beginning of this post I said that the ‘Tories and their LibDem lap dogs’ have played a blinder. Over the last three years the Coalition cuts to Newcastle Council’s budget (explained above) and increases in cost pressures (e.g. rising energy bills) have amounted to £110 Million of cuts from our annual spend of around £263M. That is ONE HUNDRED AND TEN MILLION POUNDS this Government of ToryLibDem millionaires have taken from our City and channelled to already well off and mainly Tory Council’s down South. Not a single Labour-run Council across Britain has been spared from this but the North East has by far been the hardest hit. And it’s not over yet…
We are now looking at the next three years and the Coalition haven’t finished screwing Newcastle. They are still cutting our budget and we now need to find another £90 Million over the next three years. Make no mistake… Newcastle is hovering at the edge of a fiscal cliff and the Tories and LibDems don’t give a flying duck if we fall off. Why would they?
Okay, so I still haven’t explained why I said that the ‘Tories and their LibDem lap dogs’ have played a blinder, so here it is. They are to blame for the staggering amount of money our Council has lost from its annual budget but they know that it’s Labour Councillors (like me) who have to decide on what the slashed budget they have left us with is spent on. They hope that we will get the blame for their cuts. It’s devastating.
The Tory bastards have slashed our budget so much that we just don’t have enough money to run everything we used to run. Thousands of Council workers have lost their jobs, we don’t have enough people to cut our grass as often as any of us would like or pick up litter as often as we need to keep our streets clean. Swimming pools have closed, services have been reduced and charges for some things have gone up. That is all bad enough but under this Government it’s going to continue to get worse.
All we can do as Labour Councillors is fight for our City and try and make the fairest decisions we can about how to spend the money that we do have. I just hope that our residents get behind us and don’t fall into the trap that the Tories have set by turning Labour voters against their Labour Councillors. Newcastle cuts are Coalition cuts and we have to pull together to see them off in 2015.