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FRONT LINE FIRST-FINANCE

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The current spending review is at a watershed and it is crucial to turn ministerial attention to the problems we wi...
The current spending review is at a watershed and it is crucial to turn ministerial attention to the problems we will face in 2002/03. The importance of looking ahead was confirmed by the announcement of a further freeze on changes for next year's standard spending assessment settlement.

The inequities of the funding system result in our communities paying higher taxation for poorer services. The average band D for metropolitan councils is£966 -£125 more than the London average. This is compounded by the fact there has been no revaluation despite the difference in house-price increases.

If we benchmark against other urban councils, which inevitably means against London, comparisons show that ever since the introduction of the current system in 1990, the difference in SSA per head has steadily increased to the current rate of£140 per head.

This is after the area cost adjustment has been taken into account. So despite the obvious deprivation and needs of our councils, 94% of councils making up the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities receive less than the average of London after adjustment - equivalent to£2bn less funding.

Even those councils in the top 10 most deprived receive on average some£100 less per head.

Surely such demonstrable needs would attract appropriate funding. But in reality the picture is somewhat different and will remain so for a further year.

Leaders, chief executives and directors of finance from all 36 northern mets and 12 urban unitary councils had the opportunity to meet in Manchester on 17 July at a SIGOMA conference to discuss the future funding of local government.

The government's social exclusion report indicated our urban councils

have some of the highest levels of deprivation and are trapped in a spiral

of decline. Indeed, the government's

index of multiple deprivation ranks 23 SIGOMA councils in the top 50 most deprived.

Yet, it must be stressed that SIGOMA's intention is not to take money from its partners in local government, but about achieving adequate resources for all.

So despite the past four years of promises for a fairer system, the inequities are to continue for a further year, compounding the decline of our communities.

What is really needed now are additional resources to bridge the current unjustifiable discrepancies in funding.

Charles Ellis

Executive director, finance, Barnsley MBC

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