Back in 2010, when David Cameron and Nick Clegg where pledging themselves to one other on steps on Number 10, Leeds City Council received £445 million a year in funding from central Government. This is funding that is spent on front line services here in Leeds – on care homes, public transport, housing and our environment. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats cut this £445 million a year right down to £231 million a year – and now, the Conservatives want to take an additional £100 million from Leeds every year. Leaving us with less than 30% of the Government funding we had before the Coalition came to power 6 years ago.
We’ve seen these ideological cuts to Education, to Health, to Defence and to our Police – but none of them have been cut by 71% as Leeds local Government has.
This has a very real impact on frontline services. Absolute poverty is estimated to affect 155,000 people in Leeds, and local Government is the most effective way of tackling this poverty. Leeds City Council is doing what it can, by boosting apprenticeships and by paying the real living wage – but the huge cuts from the Conservatives are only taking us backwards.
When Iain Duncan Smith resigned from Government, he himself stated that “Certain policies..are more and more..distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.”
These cuts are a political choice and not an economic necessity, and they are not over yet.
On Wednesday 14th September, Leeds City Council held a meeting of all Councillors, and voted on a motion to condemn the cuts already made to Leeds, and to halt the additional £100 million of cuts. Unfortunately the Leeds Conservatives voted against this motion.
The Government’s decision to take all this money from Leeds in such a sustained and counterproductive period of austerity has had an unfair and damaging impact on the city. There are now 14,000 more people in Leeds, living in deprivation, since the start of these cuts.
Interestingly, this has not been the case in all Councils. Down South, the Conservative run Council’s of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire have received payments of £24 million £9 million and £19 million respectively, to help them cope with this imposed austerity.
In fact, if Leeds received the same level of Government funding per person as Wokingham in Berkshire, the council with the lowest level of cuts, we would have an additional £100 million per annum in our budget.
Just think what that could do to our levels of poverty and deprivation here in Leeds.
Cllr Judith Blake – Leader of Leeds City Council