TOWN halls in the constituencies of some Conservative ministers have GAINED funding, a new analysis shows – while North-East councils suffer.

Six members of David Cameron’s frontbench team are in seats where councils are enjoying boosts to their ‘spending power’ over this Parliament.

They include big-hitters Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary (Epsom and Ewell), Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Waverley) and Education Secretary Michael Gove (Surrey Heath).

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All three have seats in the Tory heartland of Surrey. In the case of Epsom and Ewell council, spending power will rise by three per cent, over five years.

In stark contrast, every North-East council is struggling with swingeing cuts – the latest announced only last month – that have put services under fresh threat.

The steepest loss of spending power - combined funds from council tax, retained business rates, the New Homes Bonus and Government grants – will be in Hartlepool (down 24.5 per cent).

But Middlesbrough (down 24 per cent), Redcar and Cleveland (20.5 per cent), County Durham (17.3 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (17.2 per cent) are not far behind.

Durham County Council must slash another £23m from its spending in 2014-15, taking total savings since 2010 to £155m and on course to hit £242m by 2017.

The Labour-run authority is consulting on the closure, or privatisation, of five care homes, four years after shutting seven other homes.

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said it was clearer than ever that ministers had favoured their own Conservative areas.

He said: “It looks to me that the department for communities and local government (DCLG) gives out funding on the basis of who knocks on the door first.

“And if that person is a minister wearing a blue rosette then they get the money.”

Ministers have insisted they have delivered a “fair settlement to every part of the country – north and south, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire”.

However, they are seeking to replace what they call the “begging bowl” system, with rewards for councils that build new homes and attract new firms.

But the New Homes Bonus favours larger homes built in the South, often the same areas that find it easier to attract extra business investment A DCLG spokesman said: “Local government finance now puts councils in the driving seat, rewarding them with more income for supporting local enterprise, building more homes and backing local jobs.”

Overall, the DCLG figures show the ten most deprived local authorities in England – including Middlesbrough - will lose ten times as much ‘spending power’ as the ten richest.

Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s local government spokesman, said: “These figures are shocking. They show the direct impact of David Cameron’s unfair policies.”

The Northern Echo: