Speaking during this month’s local government debate, Bridget said:
“The Minister [Conservative Eric Pickles MP] apparently does not understand, or does not care about, the scale of the challenge facing constituents in deprived areas such as Sunderland. Does he seriously expect my constituents to be grateful for the hammering that they are taking in order to protect affluent areas such as Surrey?”
Eric Pickles ducked Bridget’s questioning and opted for his Lib Dem assistant, Andrew Stunell MP, to answer Bridget. He said:
“We have delivered a fair funding settlement for local authorities that takes into account the particular circumstances of each area. Our proposals ensure that no authority sees a reduction in revenue spending power greater than 8.9% in each of the next two financial years.”
However, research by the office of Bridget Phillipson shows that far from being “fair”, Sunderland is being hit hard compared to other councils in South and South West England.
Using statistics from the Office of National Statistics and a selection of 6 other local authorities, for the years 2011-13 Sunderland City Councils budget is being cut by £39.6 million, compared to a £20.1 million cut to Kensington and Chelsea Council and the £1.1 million cut to Surrey Heath council.
Additionally, comparing levels of JSA claimants, Sunderland has the highest level of residents claiming JSA and the highest cuts to its budget in cash terms out of those councils sampled. Specifically, Sunderland has 5,786 more residents claiming JSA compared to Kensington and Chelsea and 8,323 more than Surrey Heath.
In terms of overall population, according to statistics by the ONS in 2009 Sunderland had 111,800 more residents than Kensington and Chelsea, and 197,800 more than Surrey Heath.
Sunderland has also the lowest level of earnings per residence out of the authorities sampled. Full time earnings per residence in Sunderland are £489.80 less than the full time earnings per residence in Kensington and Chelsea, and £231 .90 lower than in Surrey Heath.
Sunderland City Council faces greater demands on its services than either Kensington and Chelsea or Surrey Heath Councils. Yet Sunderland and other councils like it have had their budgets cut harder in cash terms.
Bridget said:“It’s absolutely shocking. The people of Sunderland are being hardest hit when other areas with fewer people, less unemployment and more opportunities shoulder less of the burden.
“I will do all I can to take on the Tory-led government over cuts, and I know that Sunderland City Council will do all they can to protect jobs and vital frontline services. However, central government cuts make this an exceptionally difficult task.
“Areas like Sunderland have been hit far harder than affluent areas and that’s simply unfair.”