OLDHAM Council leader Sean Fielding and the town’s three Labour MPs have condemned government austerity measures which have resulted in a 42 per cent reduction in funding since the 2008 financial crisis.

They have responded to a University of Cambridge study which has found that cuts to council services have been twice as deep in England as the rest of the UK.

Oldham is among the 10 worst affected English councils affected, alongside Salford, Wigan, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Camden in north London.

Labour’s Cllr Fielding told The Oldham Times: “It’s shocking that a council the size of ours is anywhere near the top six but it’s not a surprise.

“The reasoning is simple. The grants we receive and rely on from the Government are unfairly cut compared to others and this is an issue I’ll be speaking loud and clear about because we cannot go on this way.

“Since 2010 we’ve had to make cuts of £208 million from our budget and this does not include the reserves which we’ve had to use to support vital services such as children’s social care.

He said that in the North West budgets were slashed more than anywhere else in the country.

Cllr Fielding went on: “While we’ve been cutting £208 million from our budget, some councils in the South East have seen an increase in theirs.

“What we now have is a perfect storm - more people depending on public services than ever but significantly less money to support them.

“The government’s solution is for councils to rely more on revenue they generate themselves through council tax and business rates but in Oldham we simply can’t pull in enough income through either to have any kind of impact.

“It’s down to the dedicated teams and strong leadership here in Oldham that despite everything we’re up against we’re still finding ways to try and move the borough forward.

“But we need solutions to the severe pressures on adults and children’s services. Councils can’t just keep dipping into reserves or selling buildings and land to stay afloat.

“We desperately need the government to give us a fairer deal.”

Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton and Shadow Minister for Local Government and Devolution, said that local government had “taken on a disproportionate burden” of cuts through austerity.

“We have seen the impact of this in every community as basic services have been reduced and facilities have been lost,” he said.

“The results from the Study of the University of Cambridge paint a picture of a system that I have repeatedly said is ready to fall over.

“This is not about individual councils failing to balance the books like the government would like us to believe, but a whole system failure led by ineffective secretaries of state and a Treasury uninterested in the impact of the crisis that is developing.

His comments were backed up by Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who said that over the last eight years the government had “utterly failed to support local government”.

She said:“Councils representing northern towns like Oldham are having their Government funding cut, while affluent areas like Surrey are receiving more funding. It isn’t sustainable for these councils to keep eating into their reserves to meet the rising demand for core services.

“The evidence is there for all to see with National Audit Office recently saying this will mean 1 in 10 councils with social care obligations will have exhausted their reserves within the next three years.

“We have already seen Tory councils, in Northamptonshire and Somerset, collapse under the pressure. How many more need to fail before the government acts?

MP for Ashton and Failsworth Angela Rayner said that local government was facing “the worst financial crisis in its history”.

She continued: “But even as their own councils go bust, they are ploughing on relentlessly with more cuts.

“Even worse, it is the areas that most need support which have suffered the worst. Places like Oldham and people like those I represent are paying the price for Tory austerity, even as they hand out billions in tax breaks to big business and the banks.

“It is about time that we got a government that supports our communities, sustainably funds our councils and finally puts an end to this crisis.”

See also: Oldham among 10 areas 'hit hardest by austerity'
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