Newcastle North MP challenges Chancellor on local council funding

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, has again challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the impact of almost a decade of cuts to local authority funding, ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review.

Questioning Philip Hammond during his appearance before the Treasury Select Committee today, Catherine highlighted the huge blackhole identified by the Local Government Association (LGA), which has calculated that councils across the country face an overall funding gap of more than £3billion in this financial year – which will rise to a staggering £8billion by 2025.

The Newcastle North MP reminded the Chancellor that she had raised exactly the same issue when he gave evidence to the Treasury Committee this time last year – and asked him what he done to address the long-term financial sustainability of local councils, and the vital local services they provide, since then.

Catherine also emphasised that deprived areas, including Newcastle, had been hardest hit by the impact of central Government cuts – which will equate to a loss of £2,481 per household in Newcastle since 2010, by the end of the current budget cycle.

Speaking after today’s session, Catherine said:

‘When I challenged the Chancellor today, he simply told me he did not recognise the LGA’s figures – but at the same time refused to confirm what he thinks the size of the funding gap facing local councils like Newcastle is.

‘He can dismiss these concerns as much as he likes, but the fact is that Newcastle has lost over £320million from its budget since 2010, at a time when cost pressures and the demand for its services are rising.

‘It’s absolutely critical that the Chancellor’s Spending Review prioritises funding for local authorities, and the huge range of frontline services they provide, after almost a decade of punitive cuts.

During this morning’s session, Catherine also raised concerns about widening regional economic disparities, North East unemployment figures, the impact of any Brexit outcome on the region, the loss of EU funding to the North East – and the lack of clarity on the Shared Prosperity Fund that is intended to replace this.

Catherine’s questioning of the Chancellor at the Treasury Select Committee can be watched in full here.