Anger at minister over Leeds spending cuts

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Cabinet minister Eric Pickles was today accused of creating "maximum mayhem" in Leeds as it emerged council bosses are preparing to slash spending by an astonishing £90m cut in just one year.

Council leader Coun Keith Wakefield blamed the coalition government for insisting that the biggest cuts to local authority spending are "front-loaded", or made during the next two years.

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He revealed the council is now expecting to cut spending by 90m in 2011/12 and 50m in 2012/13. The total cut over four years is likely to be 180m, rather than the 150m previously estimated.

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Between 3,000 and 5,000 council jobs are due to be lost and front line services will be slashed.

However, Coun Wakefield admitted that officials are only able to make estimates because Mr Pickles' Whitehall department has STILL not confirmed the council's financial settlement.

Council bosses are not expecting to know the local authority's grant from government until "the back end" of this month.

"Tough cuts need planning to minimise the impact on people. This is becoming very botched and is creating maximum mayhem," Coun Wakefield said.

Meanwhile, leaked figures published by the Local Government Chronicle suggest that a handful of districts in the affluent South East of England are due to receive funding INCREASES, while some of the most deprived councils in the north suffer the deepest cuts.

South Cambridgeshire and West Oxfordshire councils were said to be in line to receive funding increases of between 25 and 37 per cent, while Doncaster and Hull councils face a reduction of between 25 and 37 per cent, it has been reported.

The vast differences are because the government is ending the ring-fencing of grants for tackling deprivation and rolling the money into the main revenue support grant.

Meanwhile, those councils where the council tax take is higher – often in more affluent areas – are also better insulated from the funding cuts.

It has been claimed that Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, has appealed to the Treasury for more funds to ease the impact of the spending cuts on the local government settlement.

Officials are also believed to be attempting to reform the local government funding formula to better protect councils in deprived areas.

A Department for Communities Local Government spokesman said: "The local government finance settlement is due shortly and will be announced in a statement to Parliament. We are not going to pre-empt that statement and any commentary ahead of formal publication is pure speculation. Ministers are working towards delivering a settlement that will help to protect frontline services."

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