‘Give us the fair funding we need’

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LEADERS of the Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign hope it will urge the Government to ‘listen’ and reduce the burden being placed on large urban councils like Sheffield to help cut Britain’s deficit.

Figures released by the group – which is collecting signatures on a petition opposing the scale of cuts Sheffield Council says it is being forced to make – compare how the authority is having to shed £47.5 million from its budget this financial year, while Kingston Upon Thames Council is losing just £1m of Government cash.

Other campaign evidence of the north-south divide includes cuts to fire and police service budgets, while some southern areas have had funding increased.

Also, between July 2011 and June 2012, Sheffield’s average unemployment was 
10.1 per cent, double some southern areas.

The campaign also points out how voluntary groups are being hit.

In 2011/12 there has been a net reduction of £8.5m in funding to 159 charities in Sheffield – but Oxfordshire Council could afford to increase its funding for charities by £327,000 in the same year.

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said: “The unfair cuts to public and voluntary services, combined with the impact of changes to benefits will hit our city harder than wealthier areas.”

Coun Julie Dore, council leader, said: “I welcome the launch of the campaign to bring people from across the city together to stand up for Sheffield.

“The Government’s unfair cuts are having a massive impact on services the council provides at the same time that some of the wealthiest areas of the country receive almost no cuts at all. I hope this campaign will force them to listen to the people of Sheffield, and give us fair funding.”

However, opposition Liberal Democrats have accused Labour politicians behind the Fair Deal campaign of continuing to ‘waste’ money when complaining about cuts.

They say southern councils used as examples have much smaller budgets than Sheffield and fewer services – while Labour is accused of using the campaign to deflect responsibility for decisions about where unpopular cuts are made.

Lib Dems also say the campaign is helping Mr Blomfield bolster his position in a marginal seat he won by just 165 votes at the last General Election in 2010.

The council must save £50 million in the forthcoming year putting libraries, Stocksbridge Leisure Centre and the Don Valley Stadium at risk of closure.

But Lib Dems highlight £4.7 million spent over the last year on consultants, £500,000 being spent on full-time trade union officials and the £2m renovation of the Town Hall, which Labour says is to ensure less is spent renting other accommodation.

Lib Dems say Sheffield’s infrastructure is benefiting from huge coalition investment.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem leader on Sheffield Council, said: “I doubt people signing up to the campaign would have a clue it involves campaigning for the Labour Party in Sheffield Central.

“People want Labour politicians to stop blaming others and take some responsibility.”

To sign the petition, visit http://afairdealforsheffield.com

Nick Clegg’s office said:

■ Sheffield’s Budget is three and a half times bigger than Richmond’s and in 2013/14, Sheffield will have £160 more to spend per household than Richmond.

■ In 2011-12, South Yorkshire Police had £60 extra per head in funding compared to Surrey Police.

■ In 2011-12, Surrey spent £292,721 on hiring vehicles, rail, flights, buses, taxis and car parking. South Yorkshire Police spent £442,865 – £150,000 more. This suggests there is scope for savings within South Yorkshire’s existing budgets.

■ In the coming year 2013/14, South Yorkshire Fire has cuts of £2.5m or 4.1%, whilst Hampshire has cuts of £3.8m, or 5% of its budget. South Yorkshire Fire also has more to spend per household than Hampshire (£99.63 to £96.17 – £3.46 more per household).

■ In 2012/13, Sheffield schools received over £11.4m through the Lib Dem Pupil Premium, compared to just £2.9m for schools in Kensington & Chelsea.

■ The coalition is delivering investment in Sheffield including the £2 billion Streets Ahead highways resurfacing scheme, £500m Midland Mainline rail electrification and £300m scheme to open the fourth lane of the M1 to provide extra capacity.

■ £2bn to repair every single road, pavement and streetlight in Sheffield. Government element is £1.2bn. Project will create an extra 500 new jobs.

■ Sheffield’s City Deal could be worth £500m to the region, giving the city control over transport and skills and has even been hailed by local Labour politicians.

■ Millions to give disadvantaged children extra help at school, £11.4m in Sheffield for the new 2012/13 school year. Up from £6.5m in 2011/12.

■ Millions to help Sheffielders travel around more easily, including nearly £30m from the Sustainable Transport Fund, the £58m Tram/Train scheme and the £19.4m Bus Rapid Transit scheme.

■ Sheffield received investment to rebuild/refurbish every local school, worth £370m.

■ Provided access to finance in order to kick-start the redevelopment of the City Centre, worth £32.8m through TiF.

■ Thousands of new Apprenticeships and job opportunities for young people via the Youth contract and City Deal.

■ Just down the road (from the Crucible) a £10m new University Technical College is being built that will 100’s youngsters a route into work.

■ Huge rail improvements, including electrifying the Midland Mainline and links to Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.

■ Over £5m so far from the ‘New Homes Bonus’, which will help kick start the development of new homes and create local jobs.

■ Over £250,000 for local homeless charities to help end rough sleeping.