People in poorer areas have seen cuts of £182 more per head than their more affluent counterparts
There has been a flurry of reports out recently showing how government cuts over the last five years have had a disproportionate effect on the poorest people.
The latest, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that the poorest English authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent.
This represents a change from the historic system of linking the amount an authority spends per head with local deprivation levels. In other words, compensation for the higher needs of deprived areas is declining – the spending gap between affluent and deprived authorities has narrowed from 45 to 17 per cent over the course of this parliament.
Not all services have been affected equally. Housing and planning services have seen cuts of around 40 per cent across the country, while social care has been relatively protected. However, the most affluent authorities have seen a social care spending rise of £28 per head (eight per cent), while deprived areas have seen a cut of £65 per head (14 per cent).
The JRF recommends further devolution of fiscal responsibility to local government needs, to occur alongside a fairer system of funding to iron out inequality. It finds that local government has suffered a faster rate of cuts than most other areas of government spending – there has been a 27 per cent reduction in the spending power of the sector in England over the last five years.
Clearly, this is beginning to have an effect. The report features testimony from people who are worried about neighbourhood cleanliness, safety, the cost of public transport, long waiting times for health services and closure and reduced opening hours of libraries, swimming pools and Sure Start centres.
Last week, the PAC calculated that 20 per cent of local authorities are receiving the wrong level of funding for their needs. Last month the RSA described for Left Foot Forward the positive impact that devolved funding packages could have on employment, skills and health.
Although the JRF are clear that devolution must come with conditions, they conclude that:
“Some authorities would favour greater autonomy and sharper incentives for growth, particularly for the inclusive growth that needs to take place if we are to avoid poor places and people getting left behind.”
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.