Eric Pickles: Council cuts to continue but settlements are a 'bargain' for town halls
COUNCILS face average overall cuts in spending power of 'just' 1.7 per cent next year, Eric Pickles announced today.
Calling the settlement a 'bargain' in a statement to the Commons this afternoon, the Communities and Local Government Secretary said no authorities will lose more than 8.8 per cent in total spending power from April.
Predictions that poorer, northern councils would suffer the most were 'wide of the mark', he said.
Moves to allow local authorities which pool their business rates to keep a bigger share of growth locally - an offer set to be accepted in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire - will see at least 25p in every £1 retained locally.
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Mr Pickles also claimed a new 'efficiency support grant' will mitigate cuts, adding: "As the name implies, councils will have to improve services to receive this grant.
"It is unfair on the rest of local government to expect them to subsidise other councils' failure to embrace modernity."
Mr Pickles also announced elected councillors will no longer be allowed to join local government pension scheme to cut costs – a move which critics say will deter young, working candidates.
He criticised councils for sitting on "record" reserves and failing to collect all of tax they are owed.
Finance directors at North Staffordshire's councils are now reviewing the detail of Mr Pickles' funding settlement to work out what it means for their authorities.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is already planning cuts of £21.1 million in 2013/14.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn called it a 'bad day for communities' and accused Mr Pickles of 'living in a world of his own' as for ignoring ongoing cuts to frontline council services.