Monday, 22 January 2007

Lib Dem slams triple whammy of mistakes

A Liberal Democrat Councillor has reacted today to the claims of Local Government Minister Phil Woolas, who is applauding the 39 per cent funding increase for local government over the past ten years.

Councillor Glyn Nightingale, the Council's Cabinet member for Corporate Resources, said: “I am sure the Minister is right for the national average - but the reality here is very different. A triple whammy of mistakes has cost our taxpayers £7.1million.

“Despite the Government’s failure, through our own efficiencies we have been able to find a productivity improvement of seven per cent to invest £6.5million in improved services for the elderly, vulnerable children and the environment whilst keeping the Council Tax to a cost of living increase."

He explained: "The Government has an army of civil servants working out in great detail the funding needs of local areas. Not surprisingly, the North needs more than it has been getting, but the South needs less. To give the North more means giving the South less.

“So another army of civil servants is employed to reduce the grants for the North to prop up the overspending councils in the South. Redcar and Cleveland has lost £3.5million over the past two years by this so-called dampening mechanism.

“I estimate that our sub region as a whole has seen £15million of its required resources in the last two years sent to help Kensington and Chelsea, Surrey and Hampshire.

“We then get a double whammy from the Government’s admitted mistake in estimating population figures. Twelve months ago new population estimates claimed our population was falling rapidly against all recent trends and measures of reality.

"We forced the Government to admit they had got it wrong, but for a second year running they have continued to give grant on the basis of population figures they know to be wrong.

“Redcar and Cleveland’s tax payers have lost £4million over the last two years because of this. I estimate our area and the whole North East region has lost many millions more. Again the South East gains by the error.

“The Triple whammy comes from the outrageous distribution of a special grant called “supporting people”. The Government have redone their estimates for this grant and say that Redcar and Cleveland should have an increase in grant to help the elderly and disabled of £3.4million. However as many Councils in the South have been getting too much, and they cannot be reduced, our increase is only £188,000.

“Add all this together and Redcar and Cleveland’s tax payers have been cheated out of £7.1million for 2007, as they were in 2006 as well.

“If the Government could get its sums right and give the North its fair share we could do even more for the quality of life of our people.”

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