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JRF warns that cuts are ‘creating a divided society’

Deprived areas of England and Scotland are seeing larger budget cuts than affluent ones, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests.

Authorities in the north of England and the west of Scotland – the most deprived – have seen greater reductions in spending power, down by 21.4% compared to 15.8% for the more affluent councils.

This is partly because deprived authorities are more dependent on grants, which have suffered significant cuts.

As the cuts continue to bite, the opportunities to identify further efficiencies are rapidly diminishing, the JRF has warned. Delivering fewer services and focuses on the most vulnerable could undermine the capacity of authorities to provide a broad range of services across the social spectrum and reduced resources are making staff’s work more difficult.

The report also pointed out that localities do not compete on a level playing field, and expecting to fund services through growth could increase the gap between deprived and more affluent authorities.

John Low, policy and research manager at JRF, said: “As we approach the fourth austerity settlement for local government in December, it is clear the cuts are biting deep into the poorest and most deprived communities. Unless we can muster the national will to correct or mitigate the unacceptable divergence of resources between more and less affluent authorities, we are slowly but inexorably creating a more divided society.”

Annette Hastings, co-author of the report, said: “The changes underway within local government should not be underestimated. While the most vulnerable have been protected thus far from the worst effects of budget cuts, it is not clear how long this can continue.

“And we might also be concerned about how the people who just miss out when resources are refocused can cope with service reductions – we could be storing up problems for the future, for them and for society more generally.”

Glen Bramley, report co-author, added: “The extent of these cuts, sustained over a period of years and in the face of rising demands and costs, is unprecedented.”

PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This research proves again that this government is making the poorest and most vulnerable pay the biggest price for an economic crisis caused by the greed and recklessness of wealthy elites.

“It is also proof, if it were needed, that David Cameron's pre-election pledge that no frontline services would be affected was a lie.”

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