A report by the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has concluded that UK Government spending cuts are creating a more divided society.
Analysis of ‘austerity’ measures imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem Government in London found that cuts are hitting the poorest hardest, with councils in the most deprived areas of Scotland, such as North Ayrshire, being £100 per person worse-off than those in more affluent parts of the country.
The JRF results were confirmed last week by a separate report from the Audit Commission, the body tasked with scrutinising public spending, which found that 49% of councils covering the 20% of most deprived areas in the UK faced cuts of more than 15% in 2013/14 compared with 2010/11. Just 8% of councils in the best-off areas suffered reductions on such a scale.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report – Coping with cuts? Local government and poorer communities – concluded that, by 2015, local government funding in Scotland will have fallen by 24% since 2008. A spokesperson for the Foundation said this could result in the possibility that cash-strapped councils end up only providing services to the neediest and most vulnerable in local communities. The spokesperson added, “As a result, those who do not rely on council services for the majority of their needs may become unwilling to pay for the council services relied on almost exclusively by the poor.”
This position was supported by John Low, JRF Policy and Research Manager, who said, “As we approach the fourth austerity settlement for local government in December, it is clear the cuts are biting deep into the poorest and most deprived communities. Unless we can muster the national will to correct or mitigate the unacceptable divergence of resources between more and less affluent authorities, we are slowly but inexorably creating a more divided society.”
The Audit Commission's Tough Times report stated that 29% of councils faced “significant difficulties” in balancing their books, with some having to take “unplanned actions” to further reduce spending.