Southampton amongst the cities taking the brunt of cuts

Posted on December 19, 2010 by


Southampton is amongst the cities which will take the brunt of the government’s cuts to local councils, despite being  poorer than many other areas which are getting off with less or even no cuts.

How many jobs will be going up in smoke at the civic centre?

Local MP Alan Whitehead (who has been quite busy recently in local politics, see here for more recent shenanigans) has claimed that Eric Pickles, the ConDem coalition’s ‘communities’ minister, has “hoodwinked” people by using a new way of measuring funding to disguise the harsh cuts to Southampton.

Mr. Pickles initially claimed Southampton would see an overall drop in “Revenue Spending Power” (the new measurement system) of 4.3% (4.37% next year and 3.32% the year after).  However, Alan has claimed that this figure is misleading, saying that the “Revenue Support Grant” is the real barometer of council funding and this will face an overall cut of 11.8% (10.14% or £11.8 million next year, and 6.64% or £6.9 million the year after) – over double Mr. Pickle’s claim.

This level of cut outstrips that of many nearby rural councils, with Hampshire receiving cuts four times as little, Sussex and Gloucestershire about twice as little and nearby Dorest will see no cuts at all, despite these councils dealing with far better off areas, and Mr. Pickle’s assertion that the cuts will ensure “fairness between different parts of the country.”

Indeed, as reported by the Manchester Mule, according to the Regeneration and Renewal website the 25 most disadvantaged local authorities – according to the 2007 Index of Multiple Deprivation – will see their budgets cut by an average of 9.4% in 2011/12, compared to an average of just 4.6% for the 25 least disadvantaged councils.  Manchester itself faces a huge 21% cut by 2012/13, despite government claims no council would have cuts in spending power exceeding 8.9%.

Southampton City Council says it needs to make savings of more than £60million in the next four years, and will be laying off at least 200 council workers with the threat of more if large pay cuts aren’t taken up in the face of union opposition, as we reported on previously.  Recently the union Unite, which have around 700 members in Southampton, attempted to intervene against Southampton’s pay cuts by lobbying Mr. Pickles directly to stop them (to which he hasn’t responded – quelle surprise!).

A public consultation called ‘Your City, Your Say’ has also been launched by the Council on how to do it, including an online budget calculator where people can choose where they think cuts should fall.  However, some have pointed out that this feels a bit too much like turkeys voting for their favourite christmas execution method (excuse the mashed up pun – Ed.), and that the choice of telling the council to oppose the degree of central government cuts isn’t included on the forms (although you can submit comments with it, which you may want to use if you take part).

Although there’s not a huge amount local councils can do about the cuts – as most of their income comes from central government rather than council tax – campaigners have felt uneasy at the enthusiastic willingness of councils (especially Tory-controlled ones) to implement them.  Southampton City Council itself voted for significant cutbacks months before the government’s spending review had been published and any details known of what was in store the local councils.

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, is unamused at the balance of cuts for different councils:

These figures show Southampton loses out far more than Mr Pickles suggested earlier this week. Because of the scale of these Conservative cuts, it will be very difficult for Southampton to protect core services from now on, even with efficiency savings.

It is also extraordinary that the Conservatives have chosen to protect the shires at the expense of poorer areas like Southampton. Frankly if I was a Conservative Councillor in Southampton I would be going to Mr Pickles and demanding my money back.

With Southampton’s public sector unions refusing to cooperate with the Council over their proposals, it looks like the city is in for a battle over budgets for some time to come.

Posted in: News, Southampton, UK