THE burden of government spending cuts since 2010 has fallen heaviest on councils in the North of England, new research reveals, effectively starving them of housing and planning capacity.
While the impact of cutbacks has been felt by local authorities across the country, the research launched today by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) shows that Northern councils have taken a disproportionate hit.
The NHC part-funding the study to highlight the scale of the problem. The research was undertaken by academics from the universities of Sheffield and Liverpool through the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE).
On the back of its findings, NHC is calling on the Government to set out a package to provide an increase in local government funding ahead of next month’s Budget and Spending Review.
The report says evidence shows that the average net spend on housing in Northern councils has fallen by 54% since 2010/11, compared to a reduction of 34% in the rest of England.
Furthermore, the average net spend on planning services in Northern councils has fallen by 65% since 2010/11, compared to a reduction of 50% in the rest of England. Many more duties have been placed on planning services over this time.
“Our Northern council members have had to be creative to deliver on their housing aspirations whilst under huge pressure due to cuts in their resources,” said Tracy Harrison, the NHC’s chief executive. “Councils that have been able to retain some capacity have deployed this to boost the supply and quality of homes in their area. We are ambitious to do more right across the North but to do this councils need a commitment from Government to level-up funding.”
The NHC has set out a three-point plan, which it is urging Government to adopt. The plan calls for:
- A sustained real-term increase in local government funding
- A national centre of specialist expertise located in the North and open to all
- Place-based outcome-focused deals that rebuild local capacity
The report’s lead author, Stephen Hincks, from Sheffield University, said: “The cuts in spending since 2010 have fundamentally reshaped the capacity of local authorities to deliver services in housing, planning and development. This new evidence demonstrates the impact this loss of capacity has had over the course of 10 years.”
The full report, A view from the North: Understanding Local Authority Housing and Planning Capacity in an Era of Austerity can be found on the NHC’s website.