Core city leaders have demanded a meeting with cabinet ministers about the impact of spending cuts on their ability to deliver services.
In an open letter, the leaders and elected mayors of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield told communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles: “The current system is creaking under the pressure of the scale of cuts being made and its inequitable and unsustainable nature is becoming apparent.”
Core cities, they argued, “stand on the cusp of positive, lasting and fundamental change, yet we are deeply concerned these efforts will be undermined [by] the scale of the cuts in local government grant and the particular way in which they disadvantage the Core Cities, creating a financial crisis that threatens the economic and reform agendas”.
The letter follows one in December warning Mr Pickles of the cities’ financial plight.
Its signatories called for a summit meeting on finance between themselves and cabinet ministers.
They argued that the core cities were vital to national economic performance and that this was “intimately linked to the provision of adequate public services.
“Yet the scale of reductions for our cities will undermine those services that support growth and impact directly upon this agenda.”
Pressure on services, in particular on social care, meant savings targets were several times greater than grant cuts, now expected to average around 10% in 2014-15. “Complete decommissioning of some services” could be expected that year unless the financial position changed, they said.
The mayors and leaders said cuts would hit hardest in the most deprived areas. Ministers’ counter-arguments that cities enjoyed higher per capita grants than well-off areas “miss the point – this is the case because we are required to deliver a much greater volume of core statutory services to those in need”.
They also crticised the Fifty Ways to Save document produced by DCLG in December, which “would not have contained any surprises for most local authorities and feels out of touch with long established local government practice”.
“All of us can show that we have already implemented most of the suggestions and we are happy to provide details on request,” the letter added. “However they provide nowhere near the scale of savings needed to meet the cuts.”