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North-East councils in fairer funding plea
NORTH-EAST councils have called on the Government to take urgent steps to ensure funding fairness across the country.
The Association of North East Councils (Anec) has advised ministers that local authorities in the region want to be “part of the solution, not part of the problem” to rectify the economy.
However, council leaders say their authorities need to be financially viable if they are to contribute to society in the way the Governments wants.
In its response to the local government finance settlement, Anec has listed a number of measures it would like ministers to address to ensure North-East councils are treated fairly.
- Rethinking top-slice funding cuts of £115m to reduce the impact on North-East council budgets.
- Reviewing the New Homes Bonus (NHB) to provide more equality across the scheme.
- Resolving the business rates appeals issue.
- Find a more effective damping protection solution to remove the “perverse outcome” for some councils.
Anec claims Government decisions on local government finance will mean £1bn is taken from the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire and the Humber and given to the South-East between 2010/11 and 2014/15.
Councillor Paul Watson, Anec chair, said: “Fairness is therefore a key issue for North East councils, which we articulate strongly in our submission.
“In highlighting the distributional impacts and consequences of policies and funding formulae, we are asking the Government to take full account of the impacts across all parts of the country as part of the consultation process in the lead up to the final grant settlement announcement expected in early February.”
Anec has identified the level of damping – protection against funding formula changes – as a particular area of concern.
Council chiefs have calculated that Surrey will receive £173 more protection against grant loss than Durham and will receive high specific grants.
The Department for Communities and Local Government last night insisted the settlement was fair.
A spokesman added: “To suggest it favours councils in the south is wrong.
"Councils must do three things to get on the right road for their residents: put the fair funding deal to work; do every single one of the fifty ways to save; and accept the council tax freeze offer.
“Councils that cry wolf without having done all of this are letting their residents down.”