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Cuts to hit poorest hardest - Labour

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The coalition’s funding cuts for councils will hit the poorest communities hardest and should be staggered over four years, Labour has warned.

Shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint said ministers had chosen to cut “deeper and faster” than Labour had planned, and had “front-loaded” cuts so councils were dealt the heaviest blow in the first year.

The government is due to announce details of its local government finance settlement shortly.

Opening an opposition-led debate on changes to council funding, Ms Flint, left, acknowledged that Labour would have had to make cuts to local government.

“But not like this,” she told the Commons. “So I’m not going to let the coalition palm the blame for their cuts - cuts of their choosing, of their design, of their timing - off onto us.

“Let me nail the myth once and for all - the myth that there is no alternative - because the government had a choice.

“Not only are these cuts unfair for the whole of local government, they’re going to be attacking the poorest communities up and down the country.

“That isn’t fair and it isn’t right and it’s something we wouldn’t have done.”

The government had chosen to cut “deeper and faster, taking a huge gamble with jobs and growth”, she said.

Councils are set to lose an average of 27% of their funding over the next four years - compared to 11%, on average, for Whitehall departments.

Their “Opposition Day” motion warned that the “unexpected severity” of the cuts will lead to “substantial job losses” in the public and private sector, undermine the voluntary sector, and hit frontline services.

Ms Flint told communities secretary Eric Pickles there was “still time” for him to look again and ensure any reductions were more evenly spread over four years.

But Mr Pickles said: “The settlement hasn’t been announced. The ladies and gentlemen opposite are getting very excited over press reports.”

The Labour motion warning of “substantial job losses” was defeated by 316 votes to 197, government majority 119.

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