This week in his Autumn Statement the Chancellor unveiled the Comprehensive Spending Review, setting out future plans for government spending. I was pleased the government confirmed its support for our National College for High Speed Rail. But the overall picture is not positive for places like Doncaster and the north.
As always with this sort of parliamentary set piece, the full story will become apparent in the coming weeks, as the devil is in the detail. At the moment our estimates for the additional cuts Doncaster Council can expect to face remain the same. It makes for pretty grim reading.
When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the largest part of Doncaster Council’s budget was government grants, particularly the Revenue Support Grant.
This grant is allocated based on level of need and generally higher in northern, deprived areas and inner cities. The government has chosen to make deep cuts to it.
In 2010 Doncaster Council’s total government grant was £270 million per year. By May 2015 it had been cut to £148 million per year. We expect by 2020 these grants will be just £85 million per year.
That is a total of £185 million over 10 years but it is not the real level of cuts. At the same time, prices have gone up and so does the cost of delivering services.
That means the real gap between our reduction in grant funding and the cost services is more like £285 million. We are only about half way through these cuts.
The Conservatives know they are cutting funding disproportionately from people, and areas like Doncaster, that are most in need. That isn’t a coincidence. It is a choice.
So far, Doncaster has managed the cuts in the way that does least damage to front line services. We’ve been trying to dull the pain, but it will be felt keenly soon.
In truth, there were efficiencies to be achieved. Before I became Mayor the council was placed in government intervention. Some services were poor and many not as efficiently run as they should have been. A lot of work has been done to address this. We have led the council out of intervention. Savings are being made in back office functions, senior management costs, councillor costs and by disposing of assets. We have made investments to save money through projects such as our LED streetlight programme and by working with local people to maintain services, like our community-run libraries.
But these options are coming to an end.
The Conservative chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, has warned further local government cuts will make it impossible for councils to limit the impact on core services. He is right but unfortunately the Government is not listening.