Five cabinet ministers’ constituencies ‘least hit by council budget cuts’

Jeremy Hunt

The three councils that have suffered the least from cuts in George Osborne’s controversial budget are represented by Tory cabinet ministers, a new analysis shows.

Wokingham, Surrey, and Windsor and Maidenhead have all seen the lowest cuts to their budgets despite being the three least deprived areas in the country. The areas cover the constituencies of five cabinet ministers: Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling, Philip Hammond and Michael Gove. The areas also received £33.5m in the transitional grant announced earlier in the year.

The revelation, contained in a new analysis by Labour reviewing cuts between 2010/11 and 2015/16, is the latest embarrassment for Osborne following his budget in March. Cuts contained in the budget prompted the resignation of welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who claimed the chancellor’s austerity was politically motivated rather than in the national economic interest. He further claimed that the budget favoured the affluent, who were most likely to vote Conservative.

Jon Trickett, shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, said the analysis confirmed that Osborne’s commitment to austerity was ideological. “It is disgraceful that the most deprived areas in our country are bearing the brunt of the Tory government’s ideological cuts to local services when the least deprived areas, which happen to be home to five of David Cameron’s top ministers, are seeing the least amount of cuts,” he said.

“To add insult to injury, these deprived areas did not receive a penny in the £300m transitional grant whereas the three least deprived received over £33m. Most people would come to the conclusion that the Tories are ruling in their own interest.”

Liverpool, Knowsley, Hackney and Manchester have had the most severe cuts to their budgets, it is claimed in the analysis. They did not receive any cash from the transitional grant, despite being in the top 10 most deprived areas in the UK.

Knowsley has suffered cuts of £739 a head. In contrast, the local area of the home secretary, Theresa May, is the least deprived part of the country but received £4m in the transitional grant and endured the smallest level of cuts.

Under cuts implemented since 2011/12 and those planned to 2019/20, Labour councils face a 21% fall on average, compared with 13% for Conservative councils, 18% for independent councils, 17% for those that are in Liberal Democrat control and 13% for those in no overall control.

A Conservative spokesperson denied claims that Osborne’s spending decision had been politically motivated, adding that the transition fund was targeted at those councils facing the sharpest change from the old centrally funded system to one in which councils have “greater financial autonomy”.

The government has introduced the localisation of council tax benefit, devolved responsibility for public health and the introduction of business rates retention. The spokesman added that figures from 2015 to 2016 could not be compared because of the changes.

He said: “As we continue to deal with Labour’s debt, our long-term funding settlement for councils is fair, and ensures that those facing the highest demand for services continue to receive more funding and have higher spending power than less deprived authorities.

“Average spending power per dwelling for the 10% most deprived authorities is around 23% more than for the least deprived 10% in 2016/17.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Daniel Boffey Observer policy editor, for The Observer on Sunday 24th April 2016 06.52 Europe/London

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