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Labour says poor areas face biggest council cuts

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Poorest areas of the country are facing bigger local council funding cuts, Labour has claimed.

Shadow local government minister Caroline Flint published analysis by the House of Commons library, which showed Tory areas were “getting off much lighter”.

She also highlighted that there were discrepancies between the cash afforded to authorities in the constituencies of Conservative cabinet ministers compared with their Liberal Democrat coalition counterparts.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles insisted the package of cuts to central grants was “progressive and fair” because steps had been taken to protect the poorest areas, which rely most heavily on public sector services.

But Ms Flint said the figures showed they were not being imposed in a fair way.

The most deprived 10% of single-tier authorities would see their spending power reduced by 8.4% next year compared with 2.2% for the best-off.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s council in Sheffield would suffer a cut of 8.4% while Witney in Oxfordshire, where Prime Minister David Cameron is MP, would suffer only a 1.9% reduction.

“These figures confirm what many feared - we’re not all in this together,” Ms Flint said.

“The Tory-Lib Dem Government has chosen to hit the poorest councils hardest, with average cuts for the most deprived communities four times bigger than those in the better-off areas. In some cases, the cuts are nearly nine times as big.

“That’s unfair and it shows just how out of touch this Government is with ordinary people.

“Eric Pickles must now explain why the hardest pressed towns and cities up and down the country are faced with spending cuts substantially greater than the best off areas.”

Mr Clegg is to hold talks with Richard Kemp, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government, who has said Mr Pickles’ behaviour over the cuts to councils was a “disgrace”.

Cllr Kemp, right, who sits on Liverpool City Council, accused the cabinet minister and housing minister Grant Shapps of acting “like Laurel and Hardy” and trying to hide the true impact on local services.

“Their behaviour is a disgrace. Either they really do not know how serious the situation is that they have created by rushing to get brownie points by being the first to settle with the biggest front loading or they are deliberately trying to distract attention from the problems that they have created,” he said.

“These are Mr Kemp’s personal views and are not representative of Liberal Democrats in government,” a spokesman for Mr Clegg said.

Mr Shapps said: “The nation’s finances are in a financial mess since Labour went on a spending spree with other people’s money and maxed out the country’s credit card. The new Government is sorting out Labour’s mess to protect jobs and the economy.

“The settlement is fair and progressive with steps taken to cushion councils most dependent on central Government grants, and be fair across England - rural and urban, north and south.

“But this is crude politics by Labour - trying to play one part of the country off against each other for narrow partisan gain. If they think shire areas should take an even greater reduction in funding, they should be honest and be held to account in May’s local elections.”

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