North-East council boss joins counterparts to urge Government to abandon austerity drive (From The Northern Echo)
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North-East council boss joins counterparts to urge Government to abandon austerity drive
A NORTH-EAST council boss has joined two of his counterparts in writing to the Government to warn of social unrest and a rise in community tensions resulting from "Dickensian" local authority budget cuts.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Councillor Nick Forbes, has joined town hall bosses from South Yorkshire and Merseyside, to urge the Prime Minster and Chancellor to abandon their austerity drive.
The North-East city authority is already facing criticism for proposing to axe its entire arts £2.5m budget to protect front line services following drastic cuts in funding.
Councillor Forbes has joined Sheffield leader Julia Dore and Liverpool Mayor Joe Armstrong to warn of the devastating socio-economic impact its policies could have.
In a letter, published in a national Sunday newspaper, they wrote: “The One Nation Tory brand of Conservatism recognised the duty of Government to help the country’s most deprived in the belief that economic and social responsibility benefited us all.
"What we have today is a brand of Conservatism that has no social conscience, taking us back to a Dickensian view of the world.
“The unfairness of the Government’s cuts is in danger of creating a deeply divided nation.
“We urge them to stop what they are doing now and listen to our warnings before the forces of social unrest start to smoulder.”
The Government announced in the Autumn Statement that councils must find a further two per cent of savings in 2014/15, on top of the 27 per cent cuts announced in 2010.
There are also signs of a backlash from rural authorities, mostly Conservative-led, who claim that the shires are losing out disproportionately under the Government’s cuts.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that more than 120 rural councils were weighing up a judicial review of the spending settlement for local authorities because it was grossly unfair and would hit services in remote areas.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Councils must keep doing their bit to tackle the inherited budget deficit because they account for a quarter of all public spending and still get through over 114bn of taxpayers’ money each year.
“Councils can protect frontline services and save the taxpayer billions in cash if they share back office services, tap into their healthy reserves and cut out the non jobs and waste.
“Councils that fail to do these things are letting down their hard working residents.”