Pickles’ cuts will hurt those with the greatest need the most

21st December, 2012 12:00 pm

With under a week to go until Christmas, the Tories’ very own Santa Claus, Eric Pickles, delivered a sack full of unwanted presents to many of the hardest pressed councils in England on Wednesday. Durham County Council will receive cuts of 1.3% to its budget in 2013-14, whilst Newcastle will get a reduction of 1.5% in its funding from central government. However, West Oxfordshire Council—home of the Prime Minister’s Witney constituency—will get an increase of 2.8%.

Pickles seemed rather pleased with himself when he told Parliament yesterday that “Newcastle has a spending power per household of £2,522, which is well over £700 more than the £1,814 per household in Wokingham”. And as numerous Labour MPs rose to ask questions about the impact of the cuts on their area, Mr Pickles mostly just regurgitated back the spending power of their local authority. Such selective use of statistics, however, is very misleading, a point I made to him yesterday in the Commons: Pickles did not take into account the vast differences between the demands on services across different authorities.

9.7% of the residents in my authority of County Durham claim housing benefit—administered by local government—to top up their wages, compared to 4.6% of the population of Pickles’ Brentwood. And there are 101 children looked after by the council in Newcastle for every 10,000, compared to just 20 in Wokingham. So, each household in Newcastle may well have over £700 spent more per year on them than an equivalent in Wokingham. But this is a pretty redundant statistic when one acknowledges how much more authorities like Newcastle and Durham have to spend on services to help some of the poorest communities in the country. The key factor is local need, something entirely overlooked by ministers in the defence of their policy.

Therefore, Eric Pickles is a) being disingenuous with his use of numbers; b) doesn’t really understand the vital services that local authorities deliver for many of Britain’s most hard up communities; or c) doesn’t care and knows exactly what he’s doing: rewarding Tory voting areas in the Home Counties at the expense of the rest of the country. Unfortunately for him, none of these reflect well on his performance and abilities as Secretary of State.

It is Labour-led local authorities who are now on the frontline, dealing with the often devastating effect of the Tory-Lib Dem cuts. Many northern councils face devastating cuts, while demand for their services rise. Pickles’ strategy has been to blame the cuts on local councils, giving the impression that his actions have had nothing to do with it. On the contrary, the pain being faced by many local councils comes as a direct result of Tory and Liberal Democrat decision making at the heart of Government.

To rub salt into the wound, the Secretary of State packaged his announcement as “a fair settlement—fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and mets”. Mr Pickles is obviously from the school of Tories who seems to think that the public will believe Government policies are fair, just because ministers say they are.

Clearly Pickles understands the importance of the language of fairness and the right platitudes to make. What he doesn’t grasp, however, is that those who will have to bear the brunt of his Government’s cuts know that his measures are not fair. Just like the majority of those strivers hit by George Osborne’s benefits cap, those councils, council tax payers and the most vulnerable will know they are getting a raw deal, despite the Secretary of State’s warm words.

The leader of Pickles’ Brentwood council, Louise McKinley, yesterday urged other local authorities to “take tough choices without winging on the sidelines”. With Sure Start centres closing and services to disabled children being hit, people from the poorest areas of the UK have the right to ask why it is they who will be suffering the most from DCLG’s axe wielding, whilst those in the Prime Minister’s affluent constituency will receive more.

This isn’t about “winging”; it’s about a basic sense of fairness, something which seems to have eluded Eric Pickles.

Kevan Jones is the Member of Parliament for North Durham and is the Shadow Armed Forces Minister. 

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Geektapestry

    Kevan, did you know that the Head of the National commissioning board has cut the link to poverty / deprivation indexes in allocating funding to groups?

  • leslie48

    This is such an important message for Labour to get over but I feel we are not – our sting is too soft. We need to be harder, quicker with the punches. One example is – and forgive me if you think this is off topic – the Comet collapse which is being reported as ‘murky’. This nationwide closure will cost the taxpayer over 50 millions yet the OpCapita private equity owners are gaining -you guessed it 50 millions- some are saying these people will get more. Labour needs to fling these sensations back at the Eton Boys. Moreover if we have people in top Labour who do not understand this murky stuff. .Hire them.

  • leslie48

    This is such an important message for Labour to get over but I feel we are not – our sting is too soft. We need to be harder, quicker with the punches. One example is – and forgive me if you think this is off topic – the Comet collapse which is being reported as ‘murky’. This nationwide closure will cost the taxpayer over 50 millions yet the OpCapita private equity owners are gaining -you guessed it 50 millions- some are saying these people will get more. Labour needs to fling these sensations back at the Eton Boys. Moreover if we have people in top Labour who do not understand this murky stuff. .Hire them.

Latest

  • Europe Featured News Both EU and NATO vital to keep us safe, says Thornberry

    Both EU and NATO vital to keep us safe, says Thornberry

    Emily Thornberry has said that the UK’s membership of the EU is “indispensable” in helping keep Britain safe, following a visit to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. The Shadow Defence Secretary met with a number of senior NATO officials over two days, and says that it was “repeatedly made clear” that the EU is considered an important ally of the security alliance. “In recent days, we have been told by Leave campaigners that the EU is irrelevant to British security, because […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The long read: Why Corbyn’s moral clarity could propel him to Number 10

    The long read: Why Corbyn’s moral clarity could propel him to Number 10

    It is accepted wisdom that for a party to be elected in a first past the post two-party system it has to appeal to swing voters, particularly those in marginal seats. As a result the two main parties have vied for the centre-ground. Consequently, in recent decades a large section of the electorate came to see little to choose between them. People have also come to believe that you cannot trust politicians. Distrust increases if politicians clearly behave in ways that are motivated […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    The reality of last year’s general election is that Labour’s failure to secure a victory in an England, suffering at the hands of UKIP, ultimately resulted in our defeat. As a parliamentary candidate in Rochester and Strood, for both the general election and by-election, caused by the defection of Mark Reckless to UKIP, I am all too aware of the public mood, that considered us out of touch with their lives and values. Both elections also revealed fascinating notions of nationalism, belonging and identity politics that as a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Yesterday in Parliament we voted on the Government’s programme of legislation for the year ahead, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. The background to yesterday’s debate about its economic measures is the critical decision our country faces about its relationship with Europe. The evidence I have heard as a member of the Treasury Select Committee has left me more convinced than ever that a vote to leave would scupper any hopes and well-laid plans we might make for our […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Jeremy Corbyn has carried out a shake-up of the way the Labour Party operates with a review of the party’s internal structure and a reshuffle of his backroom staff. As the leader approaches nine months in the job, Simon Fletcher, chief of staff, will move to a new role of Director of Campaigns and Planning. While some have seen this as readying the party for a possible post-referendum snap election, it is seen internally as filling a more long-term brief – covering areas such […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit