Leeds and Wakefield hit hard in north-south divide spending cuts

Leeds City Council faces cuts SIXTEEN times bigger than local authorities in some of the most wealthy areas of the south, the YEP can reveal.

An analysis of the Government's local government settlement has exposed startling differences in the cuts faced by Labour-controlled northern councils and Tory-controlled local authorities in the south.

According to the Government, Leeds council will next year see its "overall spending power" slashed by five per cent.

In stark contrast, Surrey council will only have its budget squeezed by 0.31 per cent in 2011/12.

Other Tory-controlled local authorities which face only tiny cuts are Richmond-upon-Thames, whose total funding will fall by 0.61 per cent next year, and Wokingham, whose cashpot is falling by 0.63 per cent.

Incredibly, Dorset council faces a 0.25 per cent INCREASE in the amount of money it will have to spend next year.

Wakefield council faces a 4.7 per cent squeeze to its total funding next year and Kirklees a 4.3 per cent cut.

The National Housing Federation yesterday said its research also shows that northern towns and cities "unfairly" face the biggest cuts in local spending – 19 of the 37 councils facing highest level of cuts are in the North, which is 51 per cent of the total.

The organisation's Northern housing campaign leader, Derek Long, said: "Council services are crucial for keeping communities safe and viable.

"That these cuts target the most deprived communities and the weakest economies is short-sighted as well as unjust."

Labour MP Clive Betts, chairman of the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee, said: "This is a settlement which has switched government grant from the North to the South, from poorer communities to wealthy communities, and from urban areas to rural areas."

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles also came under fire from Mr Betts for producing "misleading" figures which masked the true scale of the cuts.

His department produced figures measuring reduction in "overall spending power" at each town hall, rather than the loss of government grants.

This new measurement included council tax receipts and NHS cash for social care, which reduced the size of the headline cuts.

The YEP yesterday revealed how Leeds council will actually see its core "formula grant" and other government grants shrink from 413m this year to 337.6m in 2011/12 – a cut of 18.4 per cent over two years.

Wakefield's grants will be 17.7 per cent over the same period.

Eric Pickles said: "I have sought to achieve a fair and sustainable settlement for local government by listening to what the local government community has asked for."

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