The Gazette on Friday regurgitated an Ealing Council press release on “Deeper cuts” without any comment from opposition spokespeople. Interestingly the Gazette headline was more measured than the headline used the council officers we pay to be objective.
Deeper cuts bring more pain as council loses £205million over the decade
Services in Ealing to have lost 50% of funding by 2020
Both of these statements are pretty misleading.
Back in August, in a futile attempt to shore up Liz Kendall, Julian Bell, issued an open letter of support. In doing so he came up with his latest fantasy cuts number – only £183 million back then, see here.
I was not impressed with his misuse of statistics so I wrote to the Council’s chief executive to get the full picture. I wrote to him on the 17th August and got the final, corrected response on 9th September. Not having a suitable hook to hang publication of the numbers on I sat on them. Now that even the council’s own officers have joined in the misinformation I figured it was time.
I simply asked the chief executive to spell out the council’s past income and future income in a comparable way so that the layman could properly judge the eye watering cuts numbers numbers being bandied about by Labour politicians (and by council officers rather shockingly this week). The key numbers are set out below (click picture to enlarge).
The headline number here is the Gross Budget. The total amount of money coming into the council every year for eight years. Of course lots of detail needs to be explained but in 2009/2010 – the last year under Gordon Brown the council spent £790 million and in 2017/18 it predicts that it will spend … £790 million. The later number is likely to be an underestimate – the predicted income will have been low balled and the predicted expenditure will have been high balled.
I don’t want to belittle the achievement of council officers in having to deal with massive changes to council finances. But, you can see how we can still be running an overall budget deficit at national level whilst all the time spending agencies are wailing about cuts.
It is clear from these numbers that we need to divert funding from housing benefit and the council has had to make room for more schools spending as school rolls have expanded. But, it is also clear that the numbers being used by the council do not usefully convey the real picture.
I have reproduced the more detail from the council below. Happy to discuss some of the details in the comments.
- Total gross expenditure includes two significant areas, schools and housing benefit, where the level of spending is not controlled by the council. These areas of spend are also ring-fenced so they can only be expended on specific functions.
- In April 2013, statutory responsibility for Public Health, together with the associated funding, was transferred to local government from the NHS. Of the current funding received by the Council £22m relates directly to the discharge of this function.
- As requested the starting year for the analysis is 2009/10. However the 2010/11 financial year is shaded because this was the final budget set before the election of the coalition government in 2010 and is therefore the relevant baseline.
- During the period there have been a number of changes to the local government funding system which will have impacted on individual income lines set out in the analysis. The most significant of these is the replacement of council tax benefit with the localised council tax support scheme in April 2013, which explains why the council tax figure reduces at that point. There will be other changes that are not as significant or apparent but which may affect like for like comparisons.
- The analysis identifies the cash reduction in the council’s total funding. The figure of £183m takes into account unfunded inflationary and some demographic pressures over the period.