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Leader bypasses DCLG in direct appeal to Number 10

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Newcastle City Council’s leader has complained to the prime minister about government’s “grossly unfair” application of funding cuts after failing to receive an “adequate” response from the Department for Communities & Local Government.

Nick Forbes (Lab), whose cabinet has just published a draft budget which includes the scrapping of all arts funding, wrote to David Cameron this week, appealing for a rethink about the “regressive” way funding cuts have been applied.

“I am writing to you directly because we have raised these issues with the Department for Communities and Local Government, without receiving an adequate response,” Cllr Forbes wrote in his letter. “I am asking you to urgently review the formula and principles you have applied. This could save frontline services across the country and help us to draw back from the abyss of austerity so severe that it threatens to permanently undermine the cohesion of our communities.”

Cllr Forbes’ four-page letter details how “Newcastle has suffered far worse than many local authorities in the local government financial settlements since 2010” due to the area’s cheaper housing and therefore lower council tax base. This affects its ability to raise income through council tax or the New Homes Bonus scheme.

Cuts to children’s services funding through the government’s decision to withhold the Early Intervention Grant, the way the public health budget looks set to be distributed and the 10% cut in localised council tax benefit funding are all referenced by Cllr Forbes.

“The cuts to local government may appear straightforward as a line in the DCLG budget, but there is nothing straightforward about the harmful consequences of the cuts that are now appearing on people’s doorsteps,” he wrote. “Ministers must look beyond the percentage figures they see quoted to the cash impact around the country. You have set about balancing the nation’s books, in part, through cuts to local government. But there is little convincing evidence that you have considered the impact of these cuts on individuals and communities.”

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