Leeds council bosses have fired a furious, cross party broadside accusing the Government of blatant southern bias and “gross unfairness” over new emergency funding for cash-strapped, cuts-ravaged cities.
The row relates to a new £300m funding pot announced this week to help local authorities adjust to cuts to their Government grant funding. Leeds, which is facing a £35m reduction next year, will not see a penny of the money.
The biggest gainers are Tory heartlands like Surrey (£24.1m), Hampshire (£18.6m) and Hertfordshire (£15.6m).
News of the snub was greeted with anger by senior Leeds City Council figures, who were told the decision was “deeply offensive to the people we represent in this city”.
And it was, they suggested, another kick in the teeth for the region after recent claims that the North has been let down over adequate flood defence funding.
There was dismay at last night’s cabinet meeting from the ruling Labour administration, and the leaders of both the Tory and Lib Dem opposition groups.
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The vast majority of councils that benefit are rural “shire” authorities in the South of England. Urban authorities and the North fare particularly badly, which is hugely concerning given the extreme deprivation and associated issues cities like Leeds face.
“Leeds saw a cut of £180m between 2010 and 2015, with a further £35m to come next year. As with the way flood defence and transport infrastructure funding is allocated, it really beggars belief the way the Government has gone about distributing this additional money for vital council services.”
Stewart Golton leader of the Lib Dem group, also referred to the flood defence funding row.
“You couldn’t make it up,” he said.
“The term ‘relief’ sticks in the throat.
“We have had years of being told we are resilient, [but] we get buttered up to cut the cloth even further.
“It looks cynical and it feels cynical. And we are losing out.”
Andrew Carter, leader of the main opposition Conservative group, said he was getting “tired” of Leeds getting “less and less year after year” of per head funding, although he pointed out the city seemed to get the thin end of the wedge from successive Governments.
“I can not say I was delighted that Leeds didn’t feature anywhere”, he said of the latest funding row, adding that the way it had been handled “does not necessarily engender the best of responses”.
He said he would “happily lobby the Government” alongside opposing party colleagues.
The Final Local Government Finance Settlement for the next financial year was announced on Tuesday.
The allocation for Leeds will fall from £272m in 2015/16 to £238m in 2016/17.