Sheffield MP in ‘dire’ cuts warning

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.
Sheffield MP Clive Betts.
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Sheffield MP Clive Betts has warned that English local government is ‘heading for the rocks’ as huge budget cuts continue.

The Labour politician, who represents Sheffield South East and is chairman of the communities and local government select committee, attacked ‘the unfair scale and distribution’ of the cuts.

Labour MPs say authorities in northern cities are bearing a larger burden than southern councils - although Tories and Liberal Democrats say the southern councils have smaller budgets to begin with.

Sheffield Council is set to lose a further £108 million from its £430m annual budget over the next five years.

Mr Betts told a House of Commons debate: “A significant number of councils – of all shapes, sizes and political controls – are rapidly approaching a lack of financial viability.

“The end of all local discretionary services such as museums and art galleries, sport and leisure facilities, parks and recreation in some areas is now a realistic prospect.

“We are not talking about the odd council failing, but the prospect of a systemic failure of local government as a whole.”

Mr Betts said the Government should reinstate revaluations of properties for council tax to bring in more money for councils.

He called for the lifting of a cap on the amount of money which can be borrowed by councils’ housing revenue accounts so more affordable homes can be built.

Mr Betts suggested an ‘all-party approach to exploring ways of making local government more financially independent and accountable to their local communities for the future’.

He has also written to Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to justify his claim on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show that the extra cuts in local government spending amount to ‘just 2.3 per cent’.

Mr Betts said: “I understand that, despite repeated requests, both HM Treasury and DCLG have refused to detail how the 2.3 per cent figure has been calculated.

“This is clearly unsatisfactory.”