Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart has accused the Government of a stitch-up after the Chancellor handed hundreds of millions of pounds to the wealthiest Tory councils to ease the pain of spending cuts – but offered nothing to Slough.
Slough has suffered some of the highest spending cuts since 2010, but has received nothing at all in the recent announcement. Slough is the only one of the 6 Berkshire unitary authorities to get nothing at all, and the other Labour controlled authority, Reading gets £800,000: less than half as much as any of the Conservative run boroughs. Meanwhile, leafy Surrey – one of England’s wealthiest shires – today gets a hand-out of £24m despite suffering far fewer cuts in recent years.
Tory MPs became alarmed when they realised their areas might soon see cuts similar to those imposed on the rest of the country. They threatened to vote down the Government’s planned cuts until Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced a £300 million ‘transitional grant’. The Government have refused to say where the extra money comes from.
Labour analysis shows that £255 million of the grant – 85% – goes to Tory councils. Areas where Labour runs the council receive just £17 million, despite suffering the harshest cuts since 2010 and having higher levels of deprivation.
Fiona Mactaggart said: “In the forthcoming local elections we will see Conservative run boroughs claim that they cost less than Labour ones. That is because the money isn’t coming out of your council tax, but from other taxes which people living in Slough will pay to contribute to this bung from the Government to Conservative run councils. The grant is to keep their political allies happy, and not provided, as it should be, on the basis of need”.
Steve Reed MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, said:
“The Government is covering up where this money has come from and won’t explain why almost all of it is being handed to Tory councils just weeks before council elections across the country.
“Councils that have already been cut to the bone since 2010 are getting nothing but more cuts. The Tories have picked millions of pounds from taxpayer’s pockets to buy off their own MPs when faced with a rebellion in the House of Commons.
“This is a blatant misuse of public money in a shameless attempt to buy votes and buy off Tory MPs.”