‘Morally wrong’: Bury council chief slams ‘unfair’ gap between north and south government grants

The divide between northern and southern local authority government grants for are ‘unfair and iniquitous’, Bury Council’s deputy leader has said.

Hart District Council in Hampshire was the least deprived local authority in England, losing £28 per household, according to figures published during Labour’s summer campaign.

This is compared to Liverpool where homes saw cuts of £807 between 2010- 2011 and 2015-2016.

Bury Council deputy leader, Councillor Rishi Shori, said a similar trend has affected homes in the Greater Manchester borough. He told MM: “It’s not fair that we’re losing out on more money because of geographical location.

“Bury has lost £130.22 per head compared to Surrey Heath which is £24.54 and east Hampshire which is £37.53

“It’s also affecting Bury’s NHS which is underfunded by £20million per annum, so we’re losing almost £222 per head in respect of NHS funding.”

The comments come after Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman expressed her concern over local authority spending cuts ahead of the Heywood and Middleton by-election.

“It’s very unfair that under this Government councils who have a high level of need have had their grants from the Government  cut whereas councils in better off areas have seen their amount from the Government  increase,” she told MM.

Cllr Shori revealed his council is struggling to maintain the same level of efficiency as government funds are being cut while services like adult health care still remain high in demand.

“We’ve got more people living longer and that’s, of course, a greater issue for councillors who provide special care,” he said. “Even if you believe in cutting the deficit there’s still an iniquitous disproportion between northern and southern authorities.

“About three-quarters of Bury Council’s money comes from central Government whereas only a quarter comes from council tax. So you can appreciate in Bury’s case we’ve lost and are losing up to 50% of our grants from Government, which is a substantial proportion of our funding.

“We’re losing nearly half of our money when demand for our services has increased, which is why we have introduce the policy for the bins and are obviously looking at cutting other services because if we don’t we wouldn’t survive as a local authority.”

When asked about the disgruntlement felt by Bury residents regarding the town’s new three-week refuse collection, the deputy council leader emphasised the importance of improving Bury’s environment as a positive outcome of the unpopular council cuts.

And he has defended the belt-tightening measures, claiming that Trafford council are also feeling the heat – but have been wily in adopting a different approach.

“It’s misleading to think we are the first place to incorporate this change,” he said.

“In Bury we have 240litre grey bins, Trafford have 140litre grey bins which are collected on a two-week cycle. So in essence what Trafford have done is decreased the capacity of the bins but are collecting them every two weeks.

“Whereas Bury, you have nearly twice the size of the bins but are collected less frequently. We’ve also increased the rate at which we collect recyclable waste.

“So we’ve not decreased but we’ve increased our collection.”

Bury councillors have launched a petition to lobby the government on the town’s funding levels. It is available here.

Image courtesy of  vaata tingimusi (inset left) and Stephen Richards (inset right), with thanks.

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