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Impact Of Austerity On Greater Manchester Revealed

Monday, January 28th, 2019 8:07am

By Mari Eccles - Local Democracy Reporter

Local government cuts in Greater Manchester have cost the equivalent of £324 per person, new figures reveal.

And people in Salford have seen the biggest cuts – at £651 per person – in the region according to new research by Centre for Cities.

It found council spending in nine of Greater Manchester’s boroughs has fallen by 17pc since 2009/10 – or some £582m.

That figure is most stark in Salford where it has dropped by 31pc during the decade.

A spokesman for Centre for Cities,  said: “Greater Manchester’s councils have been able to make do with less by becoming more efficient, but reductions in funding and the increase in demand for social care have meant cuts to other services.”

Spending on public toilets in nine out of the ten Greater Manchester boroughs – all except for Wigan – has fallen by 92pc over the past decade, while spending on library services has dropped by 39pc and street cleaning by 30pc.

The overall decreases refer to the change in councils’ spend day-to-day – on services such as libraries and transport, as well as social care. However they don’t include spend on education, police or fire, or on public health, which wasn’t under local authority control in 2009 but is now. Sure Start spending is not included either.

Salford’s city mayor Paul Dennett said: “It’s outrageous that service spending has reduced by as much as 31pc in Salford, but even worse when our core government funding has actually been cut by 53pc since 2010. What’s not here is the increase in local council taxes that has been accounted for year on year by government to accommodate the shortfall.”

He added: “The government expect local ratepayers to pick up the tab, in part, for their cuts. It is an absolute scandal. Local councils across the country are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy – something needs to be done, and be done quickly, to save them from the cliff edge.”

The  research found that when looking at the cut in town hall spend, the average cost of austerity in Britain is the equivalent of £287 per person. But that figure is higher in six of Greater Manchester’s (GM) local authorities.

In Manchester, the reduction in spend is equivalent to £402 per person, in Rochdale it is £375 per individual and in Oldham it is £337 per person. It is equivalent to £308 in Bolton and £306 per person in Wigan.

Wigan is counted separately to the rest of the GM boroughs in the Centre for Cities’ research.

Leader of Wigan council, coun David Molyneux, said: “These figures clearly show that being a Labour-led council has left us with a financial handicap that our Conservative colleagues have not had to handle.”

But he argued that the ‘Deal’ – the council’s wide-ranging economic strategy to mitigate the impact of budget cuts, which sees services previously provided by the town hall now offered by community groups – has ‘radically changed the way we deliver services compared to the past and will help us maintain a secure financial position in the future.’

He added: “This has helped us to protect residents from feeling some of the harsh realities that losing £306 per person could have had on us as a borough.

“Bold public sector reform has helped us to be a secure financial position and we are on track for our total saving of £160m by 2020.

“We have frozen general council tax as part of The Deal for five years and believe we have improved services for residents.

“However this does not mean that we do not have any challenges ahead of us. There are still significant risks of financial pressure particularly from the areas of adult social care and children’s services.”

The Centre for Cities’ chief executive, Andrew Carter said: “Cities drive the national economy and, while austerity has improved local government efficiency, its sheer scale has placed public services in Manchester under huge pressure. Cities Outlook 2019 shows that the cities most affected are economically weaker and have been less able to absorb the loss of central government funding.

He added: “Manchester’s councils have managed as best they can but the continued singling-out of local government for cuts cannot continue. There is a very real risk that many of our largest councils will in the near future become little more than social care providers. Fairer funding must mean more funding for Manchester.”

Among the rest of Greater Manchester’s boroughs, Tameside’s spending reduction per person is just below the British average at £286, while Trafford’s is £203.

Stockport’s reduction per person is £164, while Bury’s is the smallest decrease, at £146.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with £91.5 billion over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents.

“This coming year local government is getting £1 billion extra in funding – a real terms increase – to strengthen services and support local communities.”

“On top of this, we are delivering on our vision for a strong Northern Powerhouse economy with wide-ranging support including a historic £13 billion investment to improve journeys for commuters and motorists and over £5 billion for Devolution and Growth Deals.

“With a record number of people in work and over 200,000 more businesses today than in 2010 the North continues to perform strongly.”

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