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Local government settlement – unfair but Reading will rise to the challenge

Today was a day that as councillors in local government we’ve been both looking forward to and dreading – looking forward to because it will be an end to the uncertainty about government funding cuts for next year and dreading because the news was likely to be bad.  Apart from the fact that the ‘autumn statement’ is now delivered in December there are several other Orwellian things about the latest set of announcements.
The most striking is that areas of greater need are getting bigger cuts than wealthy areas – based on need apparently.  This is particularly noticeable locally with Wokingham, one of the richest places in the country, actually getting an increase in funding while Reading residents will be facing further cuts.

At the last policy committee meeting I pointed out that we couldn’t pretend that the unbalanced nature of these cuts weren’t politically motivated.

Cllr Willis (Con) claimed in response that the formula was not somethign that ministers got involved in.

I’d be interested in whether he continues to believe that following today’s announcements.

I am confident that in Readingwe will rise to this challenge but it is increasingly difficult and some of the choices facing us are now very uncomfortable.

I hope that residents will work with councillors to ensure that the impact on our communities is minimised and we can continue to make Reading a better place for everyone.

UPDATE: for any Conservative Councillors reading this blog (see comments) or if indeed quite rightly you don’t want to take my word for it you can download the official spreadsheet from the DCLG showing changes in ‘spending power’ for local authorities here.

  1. Ed says:

    Cllr Eden, I have been examining the Breakdown of Start-Up Funding Assessment / Settlement Funding Assessment spreadsheet which was sent out yesterday, and I am struggling to see any area where Wokingham is receiving a funding increase except a marginal one in the area of Learning Disability and Health Reform Funding.

    Presumably you are referring to a different set of figures.


    Cllr Ed Hopper

  2. Rachel Eden says:

    The spreadsheet you are looking for is here:
    You'll see that Wokingham's 'spending power' is increased by approximately £300K while Reading's is reduced by about £3.3 million.

    I'm hoping the Conservatives in Reading will agree that this just isn't fair to Reading's residents.

    Thanks for reading my blog and have a good Christmas!

  3. Ed says:

    Thank you for this Cllr Eden.

    Readers of your blog might also like to read

    which gives more detail on exactly what is meant by “spending power”.

    Reading other associated documents I see that Wokingham has not actually received any extra funding from Central Gvmt, and that the +£300k you mention is due to the estimated increase in their council tax revenue, which comes from their residents.

    Wokingham's Settlement Funding (from Central Gvmt) has actually fallen by 8.6% (ours has fallen by 9.85%) and remains less than half what we receive in Reading.

    I'm sure that all Conservatives in local government would rather that funding wasn't being reduced in our local areas, but suggesting that Central Government is increasing funding to Conservative areas whilst reducing it in Labour areas is misleading.

    Anyway, notwithstanding all of that, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Cllr Ed Hopper

  4. Rachel Eden says:

    Thanks Ed, this is of interest (to me at least). Perhaps it would be more plausible if the government hadn't persistently insisted on using 'spending power' over the last few years as a measure. I always assumed this was in order to make it appear that the cuts to local government were smaller than they are.

    Indeed in previous years Reading Labour councillors were criticised by Conservative ones (not you personally!) for not using spending power as a measure. It would appear that the boot is on the other foot now.

    Regardless of the semantics, I know that Wokingham does face financial challenges. Indeed without naming names a number of Conservative councillors around the South East are not at all happy with the government as I'm sure you know too.

    However it is clear that Wokingham and similar authorities are facing a much smaller budget challenge to Reading and similar authorities. That is unfair considering the relative affluence of the areas. The amount of cuts facing local government are a political choice but so is the design of the “formula” to distribute it.

    You and I both know the reasons for the difference in grant funding and I would hope would agree that there is a good reason for that.

    Thanks for the New Year wishes, Hope you are enjoying the Christmas break

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