Wakefield Council facing 15 per cent funding cuts - says leader

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Public spending cuts could slash funding for Wakefield Council by 15 per cent next year.

Council leader Peter Box said the authority was facing “unprecedented” cuts – and accused the government of making misleading claims about funding for next year.

Official figures show Wakefield will have a two per cent cut in spending power in 2015–16, compared to an average of 1.8 per cent for councils.

But next year’s budget includes almost £25m to fund public health services which the council previously did not have responsibility for.

That part of the budget, the Better Care Fund, will rise from £11.5m this year to £24.3m next year, according to a spreadsheet published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The increase will largely pay for a reorganisation which will see the council take over some services from the NHS.

The 2015–16 funding also includes more than £1m to compensate the council for freezing council tax, but the council has not yet decided to take up the grant.

Coun Box said: “The spending power figures that have been quoted are misleading.

“Our calculations indicate that Wakefield Council is facing a 15 per cent cut in core funding from the government, compared to 2014–15 levels, as opposed to the two per cent quoted.”

Coun Box said the government figures were also not adjusted for inflation.

He said: “They make a number of assumptions, such as the council will take up the Council Tax freeze grant.

“They have also included the Better Care Fund pot of money in the budget. This funding is being redirected from existing NHS and local government funding and will be part of a pooled budget.

“The council is also taking on fresh responsibilities for funding certain services and the calculation ignores the costs associated with taking on additional work.”

After the funding settlement was announced last Thursday, Coun Box said frontline services would have to be cut to balance the books.

He said the 15 per cent reduction was already factored into millions of pounds of cuts the council has announced for next year.

Coun Box said: “As a council we need to make £38m of spending cuts in the 2015–16 financial year.

“We had anticipated the 15 per cent government reduction, which is included in this figure.

“It is important that residents are aware how hard we are striving to make the best of a very difficult financial position.

“As a council we are facing unprecedented government cuts.”

Next year government funding for local authorities will have been slashed by 40 per cent since 2010.

The cuts mean Wakefield Council will no longer be able to fund all of its services.

The government said next year’s funding was a fair settlement.

But fears have been raised that it unfairly favours councils with high property values where more council tax can be raised.