Sunderland MPs debate local government funding cuts on North East region


Two Sunderland MPs debated on the impact of local government funding cuts on the North East region in the House of Commons.

Both Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Julie Elliot, MP for Sunderland Central attended the debate in Parliament.

Labour MPs have called for the National Audit Office (NAO) to examine the way in which the Government chose to hand out a £300 million transitional support package for councils.

The cash has been made available to soften the impact of reforms that will scrap the revenue support grant given to local authorities in favour of a greater reliance on retaining business rates.

But Labour analysis suggested that 83 per cent of the money had been handed to Conservative-run councils.

The two MPs expressed their views on the impact of local government funding cuts on the North East region.

MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliot, spoke about the transitional funding.

Julie Elliot, said: “This Government is hitting northern Labour councils hardest, whilst protecting southern Tory ones. This means further cuts to vital public services like adult social care in the North East.

“Due to central government cuts, Sunderland Council has had to make savings and reductions in total of £207m since 2010/11 and is projected to be required to make further reductions totalling £115m by 2020. Yet councils like Surrey have received additional transitional funding of £24.1m from the Government.

“It’s simply not right that Sunderland Council faces huge central government cuts whilst Tory councils receive transitional funding.

“I will continue to stand up for Sunderland against these unfair Tory cuts, and will expose this Government for exactly what they are doing.”

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, added: ““It was welcome that the collective voice of Members of Parliament from across the North East were able to raise our concerns with the Government about the unfair distribution of local government funding this week.

“The short-sighted impact of these devastating cuts to our local services will put not only these services but the people who rely upon them at risk, especially with regard to the provision of children’s services and social care.

“What we need from the Government is a fairer funding formula that recognises the significant disadvantages areas like ours face and to receive the necessary support to address these issues.”

As well as the two Wearside MPs, Chi Onuwarah, MP for Newcastle Central attended the Westminster Hall debate.

The MP questioned Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington, who led the debate, on how the Government can reconcile allocating the majority of the transitional money to Tory-run authorities with its support for the Northern Powerhouse initiative.

Ms Jenny Chapman, who led the debate replied to the Newcastle Central MPs’ comments.

Ms Chapman, said: “The Northern Powerhouse concept is being roundly rubbished across the region and the minister might like to take that back to his colleague.

“It is becoming a joke and it’s not a joke that I take any pride in.

“I want there to be a Northern Powerhouse. I’m proud of my region. I see the potential that it has and I want a government who is genuinely prepared to support it.

“The Northern Powerhouse is nothing but a slogan. It’s a nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s hollow.”

The Northern Powerhouse is represented by James Wharton, the named Minister for the Northern Powerhouse.

Mr Wharton attended the debate, commenting on the Northern Powerhouse.

The Minister, said: “Building a Northern Powerhouse is central to our plans to rebalance our economy and this Government is the first to do something about it with ground-breaking devolution deals across the North, including in Tees Valley and the North East.

“This will hand billions of new money to powerful, directly-elected mayors.”

“This is about creating private sector growth through improving connectivity and empowering local decision makers, it is not about how much money local authorities receive from central government.

“That said, our long-term funding settlement of almost £200 billion for councils over this Parliament is fair, and ensures those facing the highest demand for services continue to receive more funding than less-deprived authorities.”

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, Marcus Jones also defended the allocation of the grant.

Mr Jones insisted that the Government had “done [it’s] upmost to ensure that the settlement is right and fair for all”.

The under-secretary for Communities and Local Government, also commented on the calls for the transitional cash during consultation and that Conservative MPs represent “a wide swathe of the country”.

Mr Jones, added: “It wasn’t based on where MPs were based, it was based purely on the response to the local government settlement and the transitional grant was purely intended to mitigate the most significant changes in funding and the authorities that have in proportion the greatest loss in revenue support grant than they would have otherwise expected.”

The Government continues to back the Northern Powerhouse with greater local authority spending power per household than the rest of the country.

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