Alex Cunningham has accused the Government of a stitch-up after the Chancellor handed hundreds of millions of pounds to the wealthiest Tory councils to ease the pain of spending cuts – but offered nothing to Stockton Borough Council.
The Member of Parliament for Stockton North was keen to highlight that, despite Stockton already suffering drastic spending cuts of £52 million since 2010, the authority received nothing at all in this week’s announcement. Instead, the Labour MP pointed to further cutbacks of £21 million in the coming four years, which will see an overall reduction in Government funding of some 61 per cent by 2019/20.
Meanwhile, leafy Surrey – one of England’s wealthiest shires – was gifted a handout of £24 million despite suffering far fewer cuts. The Prime Minister’s county council in Oxfordshire will get £9 million.
Tory MPs, alarmed that their areas might soon see cuts similar to those imposed on the rest of the country, threatened to vote down Government plans until Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced a £300 million “transitional grant”. The Government has refused to say where the extra money is coming from.
Labour analysis shows that £255 million of the grant – 85 per cent – goes to Tory councils. Areas where Labour runs the council stand to receive just £17 million, despite suffering the harshest cuts since 2010 and having higher levels of deprivation.
“It is utterly preposterous that the five most deprived councils in the country, which includes one of our very own here in the Tees Valley, are set to receive no help under the Government’s plans, while the five least deprived will benefit from an additional £5.3 million.
“Few will be surprised at such a disparity, coming as it does from a Government that has failed to rebalance the economy and led by a Prime Minister with a record of granting tax cuts to millionaires while making working people worse off.”
Steve Reed MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, said: “The Government is covering up where this money has come from and won’t explain why almost all of it is being handed to Tory councils just weeks before council elections across the country.
“Councils that have already been cut to the bone are getting nothing but more cuts. The Tories have picked millions of pounds from taxpayer’s pockets to buy off their own MPs when faced with a rebellion in the House of Commons. This is a blatant misuse of public money in a shameless attempt to buy votes and buy off Tory MPs.”