SUNDERLAND Labour Group has condemned Government plans to change a funding formula that they believe will ‘benefit rich southern councils at the expense of poorer northern councils’.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, has criticised ‘in the strongest possible terms’ proposals to adjust the funding formula for local council finance, that will remove weighting to reflect the higher costs of poverty and deprivation.  With levels of poverty in the North East among the highest in the country – the region has seen 4,000 more children fall into poverty since 2010, an increase of 37 per cent -political leaders in the city believe this will further hamstring local councils which, Cllr Miller says, ‘can barely deliver essential services due to the relentless austerity purge imposed by Government’. 

Cllr Miller said: “These changes will punish most those that need the most support.  More than counter-intuitive, this feels like a very cynical attempt by the Tory Government to siphon additional funding into those authorities that are already cash rich, stealing from the hands of the poorest authorities and therefore people, in the country.

“For cash-strapped authorities in deprived areas, where the need for local government intervention is at its greatest, these changes will force further impossible compromises that ultimately let down people.  We have faced some heart-breaking decisions already when it comes to directing funding. How close to the bone does this Government have to cut funding before it realises that enough is enough?”

Cllr Miller’s comments have been echoed by political leaders up and down the country, with Cllr Richard Watts, the leader of Islington Council and chair of Labour’s local government resources group, describing the proposed changes as a ‘brutal political stitch-up’.   

Councillor Miller added: “We really shouldn’t be surprised by these proposals.  This Government – with the most devastating track record of decision-making that attacks the poorest people in the country – is proposing yet another disastrous change that will set up Labour councils to fail their communities, while affluent areas continue to roll in unneeded additional cash.”

Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, concurred that removing deprivation from the formula was “grossly unfair” and “illogical,” while Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council said the proposal was an act of war, that would “be to the serious detriment of urban, economically and socially disadvantaged areas, which also mainly happen to be Labour-run council areas. It’s utterly mendacious.”