BBC reports unsurprisingly that Newcastle City Council has been ‘forced’ to plunder welfare funds

Newcastle Civic CentreNewcastle City Council said it would have to stop providing crisis loans to vulnerable residents

The BBC reports that a north-east council says government budget cuts are forcing it to use funding earmarked for vulnerable residents.

Newcastle City Council is using money previously ring-fenced for welfare and crisis loans on other frontline services.

Labour council deputy leader Joyce McCarty said it was facing “really tough choices”.

The government said local councils were best placed to decide priorities.

However, the government is proposing to cut a further £12bn from its annual welfare budget.

Funding for welfare grants and crisis loans was devolved to local control in 2013/14.

Ring-fencing was removed from 2015/16 and the cash now goes into the council’s central budget.

The authority said it could not prioritise discretionary loans over its statutory obligations and would only be able to allocate £120,000, compared with last year’s £229,000, for emergency welfare payments.

The Council had been forced to “make some really, really tough choices between providing frontline services and offering this level of support” to poorer residents, Ms McCarty said.

The Tees Valley Community Foundation, a private charity which helps to support those in need, said they expected more requests for help as a result.

Chief executive Hugh McGouran said he expected to see “a rapid increase” in demand.

“Twelve billion is such an eye watering figure,” he said.

“There’s going to be some significant cuts and I think people will start to turn more and more to charities to try and plug that gap.”

The government claim that nationally-run community care grants and crisis loans had been “poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need”.

“Local authorities now choose how best to support local welfare needs,” a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said.

“Additional money had been provided to assist authorities dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care,” he said.

However, I believe that this comment is little more than a platitude, intended to blur central government accountabilty. The government know precisely how much money is available to each council. How is it conceivable that local authorities have been provided with additional funding when this is offset with overall steep local authority budget cuts by the same government?

Moreover, the largest cuts have been made in the poorest areas, as the Institute for Fiscal Study (IFS) point out, with the same areas set to lose the most again over the next few years.

During the last term, local authorities in England with communities ranked in the top 20 per cent for health deprivation and disability have faced an average reduction in spending power of £205 per head – 12 times the average for places in the bottom 20 per cent.

Communities ranked in the top fifth for income deprivation affecting older people saw an average reduction in spending power of £229 per head while the average reduction for places in the bottom fifth was just £39.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that those authorities in the most deprived areas tend to be those that are predominantly Labour. This clearly indicates that the government is purposefully targeting Labour councils for dispropotionately higher cuts than Conservative ones.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) also point out that severe cuts to local authority budgets are having a profound effect on the services people receive. The poorest communities and residents are being hardest hit and those least able to cope with service withdrawal are bearing the brunt of the Conservative austerity drive.

It’s inconceivable that this isn’t intentional, targeted austerity on the part of the government.

The shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hilary Benn, said earlier this year that it was “irresponsible and unfair” for the Conservatives to have imposed the biggest reductions in local authority budgets on those communities with the highest numbers of older people living in deprived households.

“The A&E crisis in our NHS, driven in part by insufficient social care provision where it is needed, shows that the Tories can’t be trusted with vitally important health and social care services,” he said.

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9 thoughts on “BBC reports unsurprisingly that Newcastle City Council has been ‘forced’ to plunder welfare funds

  1. ” The authority said it could not prioritise discretionary loans over its statutory obligations ”
    What Statutory Obligations exactly. What is more important than people who are sick or need help that live and have worked in the comunity you are there to serve.
    The question is, if Funding for welfare grants and crisis loans was devolved to local control, are councils going to use this power, or let the Tories offload onto them and take the blame whilst they dish out the medicine.
    I’m all for council fulfilling their correct role, but rather than rolling over into a submissive pose like a whipped puppy and hoping you won’t be savaged anymore, maybe councils should endevour to publicly ask the Chancellor to re- assign what the statutory obligations are in the liight of changing responsibilities.

    When I get overloaded with work I ask the management, “What do YOU want first, you tell me, because I physically cannot do it all. YOU choose”.
    What shall we do Mr Osborne, what are our priorities….. Sing it load and clear

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    1. Local authorities are bound by statute. Their functions are set out in numerous Acts of Parliament and many of these functions have associated legal duties. Child protection is one statutory obligation, for example. Providing allotments is also mandatory, believe it or not.

      Here’s a list of some of the laws the councils are bound by, these establish their duties and obligations to the public:

      Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003
      Children Act 2004
      Civil Contingencies Act 2004
      Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
      Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH)
      Crime and Disorder Act 1998
      Criminal Justice Act 2003
      Data Protection Act 1998
      Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004
      Environmental Information Regulations 2004
      Equality Act 2010
      Explosives Act 1875
      Fire and Rescue Service National Framework 2012
      Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
      Fireworks Act 2003
      Flood and Water Management Act 2010
      Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
      Housing Act 1996
      Human Rights Act 1998
      Licensing Act 2003
      Local Government Act 2000
      Localism Act 2011
      Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928
      Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996
      Police and Justice Act 2006
      Police Reform Act 2002
      Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
      Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
      Reservoirs Act 1975
      Sustainable Communities Act 2007
      The Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR)
      The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
      Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006
      Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

      There simply is NO power when funding to provide these services to uphold the law is being cut. If councils break the law, they face legal action, and probably fines…

      The government have told the councils what they must continue to provide, legally. The priorities are outlined in law. The problem is that councils can no longer afford to meet all of their obligations because of central government underfunding.

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