Speaking during a Parliamentary debate on council funding, Bradford East MP, Imran Hussain, slammed the government’s changes for cutting the money available to councils such as Bradford serving the most deprived areas.
The changes, which were announced in the Local Government Finance Settlement in December 2015, will alter the structure of how councils are granted money from Central Government as part of their funding arrangements by reducing General Revenue Grants to zero by 2020, leaving Councils to rely upon Council Tax and Business Rates for revenue to fund local services.
Based upon the figures released, Bradford Council will see a decrease in funding in 2016/17, and this reduction will force the authority to make even greater savings and raise an extra £260 million by 2018 through cuts, extra income or higher local taxes compared to 2011.
However as local councils have already stripped back services as far as possible and made efficiency savings, they will struggle to go further without putting the council’s statutory responsibilities at risk, a point raised by Mr Hussain during the debate.
Due to these cuts and their disproportionate spread across the country which leaves places such as Bradford hit harder than wealthier areas of the country, the changes to local government funding also run the very real risk of increasing poverty and deprivation within Bradford, an authority already listed as serving the 18th most deprived district in the country, by severely limiting their ability to provide vital services for these people as well as initiatives to lift them out of poverty.
Speaking on the changes to council funding, Imran Hussain said:
“Ultimately, what these changes and cuts to Bradford council represent is nothing short of an ideological attack on the existence of local government, as it is all too clear that there is nothing that this Tory government would like more than the erosion of councils to a single department with all services provided by private sector contractors. Their bias in funding arrangements also demonstrates their clear favourability to wealthier parts of the country who will be hit nowhere as hard as Bradford, and in some cases, may even be better off.
“With such colossal reductions in funding, we can be in no doubt that these government cuts are leaving vital council services on the verge of closure – services which serve young people, women and the vulnerable, all of whom look to the government, either local or central, for protection, and by reducing funding and forcing councils into this position, this Tory government are betraying them and their duty of care.
“The move to remove General Revenue Grants and leave councils to rely on business rates and council tax also makes no financial sense, as although Bradford has a substantial amount to offer businesses and potential investors, at a time when the Chancellor is warning of poor economic news to come, when HMRC are moving high paid jobs out of the city, and when the council will be left with no funding to further increase the attractiveness of the city, we will be unable to keep up with demand and cuts.
“It is therefore important that the government stop this senseless agenda and instead give councils such as Bradford the money and support that they need to grow their economies, allowing them to rebalance the economy and realise the Northern Powerhouse that under George Osborne’s local cuts has proven to be nothing more than a sham.”