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Jobs and growth in Newcastle

March 3, 2016

Employment in Newcastle has reached its highest level for a decade and is forecast to continue rising. Newcastle City Council Leader, Nick Forbes, talks about Newcastle’s economic success and his ambition to make it the UK’s most business friendly city.

We live in an uncertain world. A few months ago George Osborne was telling us his so called economic plan was getting Britain back on its feet. More recently he was warning of a dangerous cocktail of serious threats from a slowing global economy. Falling oil prices, panic over Chinese growth and interest rate rises in the US have left us wondering if we will ever see stability again.

When I became Leader of the Council in 2011 and was forced to take £40m from the council’s budget and £30m the year after, I, and my Cabinet, decided to place job creation right at the top of our agenda. We could see with government grant haemorrhaging from the North East and punitive reforms to welfare, we needed a different approach to building a strong economy.

Councils such as Newcastle are turning themselves into job creation agencies in all but name, doing what we can to create the right conditions for growth. That is exactly what we have set out to do with an ambitious capital investment programme we will continue to fund despite the challenges. Jobs are the building blocks of a successful economy. They don’t just provide us with goods and services but they give individuals a stake in society.

People in this city know that work is one of the best routes there is to social justice, and that’s why I am delighted to see employment levels in Newcastle at their highest for a decade. There is a lot still to do to ensure no one is left behind as we strive for further growth, but there are signs our city is well placed for the future.

Walking around the city centre, you can’t help but feel a new confidence. The redevelopment of Monument Mall has attracted a range of luxury retailers, Eldon Square has 137 units with 95 per cent occupancy, and 20 new restaurants are set to open in Grey’s Quarter.

The refurbished Central Station with its pedestrian friendly open spaces has attracted £10.8m of private sector investment and gives visitors an impressive welcome to the region. The nearby Stephenson Quarter reached a milestone with the opening of the Crowne Plaza hotel, creating 130 jobs for local people, new office space in The Rocket for 350 workers and car parking. And plans to link the site with the Central Station will open it up to further opportunities.

We are also investing in our infrastructure, including £10m on sites such as  Cowgate roundabout and John Dobson Street, investment which of course brings disruption but is essential if we are to seize the opportunity to improve junctions that have slowed journeys for generations of travellers.

I want Newcastle to become the most business friendly city in the UK. We are making great progress but can’t rest on our laurels as there are still too many people out of work. We must stay the course and make Newcastle a city that in future will hold its own against the biggest in Europe.

Mental health: Challenging the stigma and ending discrimination

February 11, 2016

It’s estimated by MIND and other charities in the UK that one in six people will experience a mental health problem in any given year – a conservative figure according to Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former chief Spin-Doctor.

In the North-East research reveals that one in four have a mental illness, ranging from clinical depression, bi-polar disorder to severe anxiety. In Newcastle 45,848 adults aged 18-64 have short and long term mental health conditions. Both universities in the city note that there has been a steady increase in the number of students who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act due to Psychosis. Generally, disclosure of the illness is only identified when the student is at crisis point. The vast majority don’t come with a previous history of the condition and the absence of an effective support network plays an important role in this.

Mental illness, which has a number of manifestations, has replaced unemployment, as the region’s largest social problem.

More people with mental health issues were drawing DLA benefits, than there were jobless people on the ‘dole’ in 2013. The World Health Organisation indicates that clinical depression will be the second most common health condition both in the UK, and elsewhere in the world by 2020.

Mental ill health costs some £105b each year in England alone. So depression is not only bad for overall happiness, it’s bad for GDP too.

Alarmingly, citizens with a severe mental illness die up to 15 years younger than their peers in Britain, and there remains a clear link between mental ill health, bad housing, unemployment, family problems, poor education, learning disabilities, crime, alcohol dependency and loneliness. Men’s suicide rates have been soaring in the last five years running above 6,000 a year! All this is compounded by stigma and discrimination.

Negative stereotypes still persist about those suffering from depression and other mental health problems. It’s argued that people with a mental illness are more likely to commit crime and harm others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many victims of street crime tend to be people with mental health issues, according to the annual British Crime Survey. And few are a danger to society.

Much has been achieved by charities such as Rethink Mental Illness and the Time For Change campaign to break down stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness.

But perhaps, one of the biggest and bravest attempts to highlight this issue was the decision of four MPs in 2012, including Durham North MP Kevan Jones, to describe their own experiences of depression. Moving accounts from all four attracted a lot of positive public support and helped to move mental health higher up the political agenda. Both Labour and the Lib-Dems have pledged full support to make this a key public issue.

During the same year, Newcastle Councillors from both parties, drew on their own personal experiences (myself included) of this condition, in a constructive, educative and informed debate in the council chamber – an excellent example of cross-party working and thinking on one of society’s most pressing issues.
As Campbell, who had a serious nervous breakdown 25 years, rightly points out, depression is a horrible illness for which there’s too little understanding. He says: ‘’The nearest I can come to describing it is that when it strikes you feel dead and alive at the same time.’’

But more needs to done to challenge negative labelling and mental health discrimination. To their credit, some larger employers in the region, such as Newcastle Council and NCG have designated themselves as ‘Mindful Employers’. Sadly, it’s still the case that some employees who disclose having a mental health issue at the workplace experience indirect discrimination, harassment and bullying from inexperienced and ill-informed line managers.

Moreover, there’s a clear case to toughen up the Equality Act, which offers some legal protection from discriminatory practices at work, by bringing in a Anti-Mental Health Discrimination Act and making all employers fully aware of their ‘duty of care’ to disabled employees.

Too often mental health services provided by the government are patchy, and treated like a ‘Cinderella service’. According to Campbell in his book, ‘The Happy Depressive, only a quarter of those suffering from mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are getting any kind of treatment or support, and that usually means drugs. One of the country’s top experts on the condition, Richard Layard in his important work, called the Depression Report, recommended training an extra 10,000 clinical psychologists and therapists to provide cognitive behavioural therapy for those suffering clinical depression, through 250 local treatment centres, providing courses costing £750.

This would save the state millions of pounds in disability benefits and lost tax receipts.

Newcastle Council reaffirmed its commitment to those experiencing mental health issues. The Council believes it has a key role tom play in improving the mental health of everyone and tackling some of the most entrenched inequalities. Mental health should be a priority across all functions of the authority and all councillors should play a positive role in championing mental health on both an individual and strategic basis.

Improving mental health should be seen as an integral part of an holistic well-being approach to citizens who live, learn and work in the city. But above all, we need to stamp out ignorance, prejudice and discrimination, both in the workplace and wider community.

City training providers fail to meet the needs of young people and the North East’s economy

February 11, 2016

In a hard-hitting report, ‘Skills For The Future’, produced by Newcastle City Council’s ‘Education, Skills and Training Task Group’, the city’s training providers, businesses and some schools are failing to meet the needs of the 16 to 24 age group and the region’s economy.

The aim of the Group, made up of Councillors and Post-16 Education experts, was to examine the learning and training opportunities available to young people in Newcastle aged 16-24 years (25 years for those with Special Needs). The group analysed the level of supply in relation to demand along with the accessibility and suitability of provision. The group explored the effectiveness of support offered to young people to achieve their full potential and equip them for the job opportunities and long-term career options available.

Areas for examination included the role of schools, regional colleges, training providers and links between them. We looked at the role of funders, particularly the Skills Funding Agency. The role of business and employers was examined, together with the choice and availability of apprenticeships. In addition, a range of careers advice was explored, including careers advice in the city’s schools. The role and scope of ‘Connexions’ in the Council was looked at, alongside teenager’s destinations after year 11. The responsibilities of different parts of the local authority, communications between them and with external agencies was taken into account.

Finally, the developing role of the North East Combined Authority and its potential to have a strategic role in skills training across the region was examined.
In the city 18 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds are NEETS – the highest in all core cities across the country. Although the number of NEETS aged 16 to 18 is falling, youth unemployment amongst young people under 25 is 12%, compared to 10% nationally. Young people have been hit hard by austerity. In a recession, young adults are often the first to be made laid off by firms, whilst new hiring opportunities are also lower. That’s why Post-16 providers, local businesses and Central Government must get it right if we are to give young people fulfilled and successful lives in a competitive jobs market especially that significant minority who are left behind.

All young people need to well- informed about career choices available to them from an early age, and supported in making the right decisions to enable them to follow their aspirations.

The region as a whole, and Newcastle in particular, need to be able to keep skilled and talented people, providing meaningful and rewarding employment opportunities and an appropriately skilled workforce to develop a thriving economy.

For both the welfare of young people and the North-East as a whole, our Group has had an ongoing interest in the effectiveness of post-16 education, skills and training provision. To date, Newcastle’s ‘Learning Challenge’, based on the successful London model, explored ways of narrowing the education achievement gap of disadvantaged youngsters in the city, but little research has been done on the Post-16 cohort in the city.

The group began by interviewing young people with a range of backgrounds and experiences, aged from 16 to 24, and we were alarmed to find that most had received no impartial advice and guidance on skills training (with the notable exception of one teenager who attended an Independent school!). Careers advice was inadequate and clearly failing. Many teachers had little experience or understanding of Post-16 vocational training opportunities, including apprenticeships, other than the traditional academic A-level route. As a result, many young people were not familiar with apprenticeships or Level 2 and 3 vocational courses provided by Newcastle and Gateshead Colleges. A similar report, published by Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw, reached similar findings. Preparation for work is ‘’poor’’ and careers guidance in schools and colleges is ‘’uniformly weak’’. In short, many were unable to make ‘’informed choices’’ at 16.

The Group then had a series of in-depth meetings with groups of careers advisors, council officials, skills training providers, funding bodies, representatives from industry and commerce and Senior College Managers. Disturbingly, some of the private training providers (state funded) were delivering job related courses, which were not relevant to meeting the needs of the changing regional economy. There appeared to be no insight into how the city’s economy will look like in 2020. There were also concerns about the quality of the provision. Some good and too much it simply bad. As Wilshaw notes in his own report, despite the Government’s ambitious apprenticeship programme, too many of these are of a poor quality, too short in length and fail to provide the skills employers need.
Our Group discovered that the current organisation and funding of skills provision in the North-East was ‘’something of a free for all’’ with little strategic leadership or direction raising the key question whether the needs of young people or industry were being seriously addressed. According to the North-East Skills Action Plan ‘’ the skills system in the North-East is a complex, interconnected web of institutions involved in designing, resourcing and delivering the improvement of skills. Councillor Hilary Franks, Chair of the Group and former Assistant Principal at Gateshead College, dubs it as a ‘’dysfunctional mess in need of leadership, an overview and re-organisation’’.

Schools are keeping hold of 16-year olds in order to boost funding , even though a significant minority may be better off following Btec National courses in Health, Care , Hospitality and Tourism , It and Business at local FE colleges. Several publicly funded private training organisations are failing to provide high-quality and meaningful accredited vocational programmes which lead to real jobs at the end of it. There appears to be little real co-ordination between Headteachers, College Principals, Senior Council officials and Business leaders.

That’s why the City Council’s decision to establish a ‘City Skills Hub’ is to be welcomed involving a partnership between Newcastle College, Connexions, Generation NE, Newcastle Futures and Newcastle City Learning. As Wilshaw rightly suggests the North-East requires a model federation of schools, to include secondaries and primaries, working with local nurseries, and a 14-19 University Technical College that would focus on high quality apprenticeships – giving vocational education equal status and ‘’parity of esteem’’ with school sixth forms and colleges which focus on academic A-level provision.

With the Government’s Devolution agenda now firmly on the table for the region, a new North-East Combined Authority and Elected Mayor in 2017 must take overall strategic responsibility for all skills training and careers guidance and public funding. To do otherwise is to let down thousands of young adults as well as failing to meets the skills needs and shortages of a changing regional economy.

Stephen Lambert is a Newcastle City Councillor. He is a member of the City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which commissioned the report ‘Education, Skills and Training in the City’. Until 2011 Stephen was a member of the Council’s Workforce and Learning Development Board.

A long road to Trans equality…

November 20, 2015

This week I have participated in two flag raising events. Both to show support for those who have been victims of hate crime or have been persecuted for simply living the life they choose to live.

I have chosen to stand side by side with both friends and strangers to show that we will not be silenced whilst others use violence and cause harm to people simply because of who they are or what they believe in. photo

In 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York the police entered the building and started to arrest people for just being themselves or choosing a lifestyle that was not considered to be ‘normal’ at the time!

On this occasion one person decided to fight back because she had decided that it was her right to choose to wear a dress even though the police just saw a man. The riots that followed are considered, by many, as the start of the modern gay rights movement.

Last year we saw how voices coming together in unison, with both friends and allies has helped to change legislation. People are now able to marry the person they love no matter what gender they are. Gay rights continue to move forward at a rapid pace however Tran’s equality is still behind on the journey. The existence of the so called ‘spousal veto’ shows that this legislation falls a long way short of equality for many married transgender men and women seeking gender recognition.

National figures show a 9% increase in hate crime towards transgender people in the last year. What I know is that these figures don’t reflect the experiences of people facing hostility and name calling on a day to day basis. They don’t show you how this impacts on a person’s wellbeing or explain why some types of offences are often not reported or recorded as a hate crime.

It’s only by ensuring that reporting systems are accessible and people feel that their voices will be heard, that we will be able to start on a journey of change. So that society understands that this behaviour is not acceptable or will not be trivialised and appropriate action will be taken.

I recognise that there is still a long way to go to make Trans equality a reality. The work and dedication of local organisations like Be and Gadd play an important role in this journey as well as the role of national organisations such as Stonewall.

We must also celebrate and recognise the success of programmes such as ‘Boy Meets Girl’. A story set locally about two people falling in love, one of whom just happens to be transgender, which has helped to bring a wider awareness of some of issues faced by the transgender community into households.

Today on Transgender Day of Remembrance I want to acknowledge those who have faced much adversity to be true to themselves. Pay tribute to the courage people show in standing up to prejudice and ignorance that they face on their journey, and remember those who have lost their lives along the way.

http://www.tynetrans.org/

Letter to the Prime Minister

November 13, 2015

Dear Prime Minister

In 2012 I wrote to you about the scale of the unfair and disproportionate government cuts imposed on Newcastle City Council, and their very damaging impact on our city and its communities. I enclose a copy of the letter for your reference (I haven’t yet received a reply).

Since 2011 Newcastle City Council has faced cuts of £191m, and as a result we have already had to take some extremely difficult and distressing decisions to close libraries, leisure facilities and older peoples’ day centres, reducing street cleaning and environmental maintenance, and scaling back support for the most vulnerable including Sure Start and Early Years provision. 2,200 council employees have already lost their jobs in Newcastle as a result of government cuts, and we are faced with the prospect of a further £100m of cuts in the next 3 years, which can only be met through significant further reductions in local services including adult and children’s social care.

I note your recent offer of to the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council of a meeting with the No 10 Policy Unit to discuss such matters, as your local council is now being affected by the same challenges that we have had to deal with over the last 4 years. I would welcome the opportunity to tell you about what they mean to Newcastle and local government more generally. I hope to have this conversation before the Comprehensive Spending Review is announced, so that you can change track and avoid yet more damaging cuts to vital public services.

I look forward to hearing from you.

State of the City 2015 Speech

October 5, 2015

30th September 2015

Thank you for coming to our annual State of the City event today. It’s an important opportunity for us to take a step back from day to day issues, and look at our city in context. How are we doing, what are our challenges – and above all how are we working together to meet them?

As we gather here today, there is a difficult truth facing us – our desire to do good for the city has never been so far from our ability to deliver it.

My Labour Group, my Cabinet and I have dedicated huge amounts of effort and energy over the last 4 ½ years to shield residents from the worst of austerity, using everything we have to keep the economy and our sense of self belief going.

But that shield is now very dented, and there is more to come.

Right now we face a battle to preserve a commitment to delivering social justice at a time when the Chancellor, in his Comprehensive Spending Review, is sharpening the axe.

We are at a dangerous time for the city, where the next round of spending cuts risk being so severe they could undo decades worth of work helping the disadvantaged and the elderly.

The benefits safety net we once thought was there to help our must vulnerable pick themselves up and recover their pride has gone.

The support we are able to give to children and their parents, in their formative years, is severely reduced.

The money we use to ensure our elderly are not left lonely, at risk and reliant on hospital stays has being reduced, and is about to all but disappear as the Revenue Support Grant traditionally relied upon by councils to fund day to day services looks set to be eradicated.

Put simply, when it comes to what councils can do, the money has gone, but needs have not. In fact they have increased. Local government has already faced cuts of more than 40%, and the Government is determined to reduce public expenditure from 43% to 36% of GDP. That will have a profound impact on what councils will be in the future, and what we will be able to deliver. And the complexity of local government finance is lost on most people in our city, who often have little idea that council tax only constitutes 11% of the Council’s budget.

The council has lost £150m so far as a result of unfair and disproportionate Tory cuts, but the story does not end at the civic centre.

The Government’s welfare reforms, which already feel like they punish those who try to succeed, will mean Newcastle residents lose £148m annually by 2020-21.

We are not through the worst of the pain yet, and we will never recover to be the same all-encompassing organisation we were before. We are witnessing a fundamental rethink of how councils provide services, and indeed even if they should provide all of them.

With the council budget we will have to agree next year, and the Comprehensive Spending Review the government will announce this November, Newcastle expects to lose around £100m in cuts and new spending burdens over the next three years.

When the city has made similar savings over the past five years, we’ve seen services go altogether and justifiable outcrys over reductions in grass cutting, street sweeping, swimming pools or libraries. So far our focus for dealing with government cuts has been to reduce the ‘visible’ services that the council provides.

But now the people who don’t march are the ones who are going to be forced to take more and more of the pain, as a direct result of Government spending cuts.

Those who need the state to help them, either to help them pay for food, or to actually send someone round and make sure they have ate face a potentially difficult future. Cuts will now start to impact on the vulnerable, in a way that we have been able to avoid up until now.

In this city, we are asking ourselves again, what can we do to ensure those at risk of being left behind are given the best chance to do more than just survive.

Already, we have a track record of refusing to cower in the face of a challenge.
One of the most depressing things about the austerity seen in the last parliament was that it choked off growth and that the recovery took longer as a result.
To counter that, we borrowed to invest, making sure developments such as the Stephenson Quarter continued, providing jobs in construction, getting us ready for jobs at the recovery and sending a signal that Newcastle will not stop in the bid to create more and better jobs.

But the economy is not yet at full strength, and in the next few years we may see further economic turbulence. If the Chancellor does not take heed now, the spending review might mean local government does not have the capacity to intervene again.
To help where we can, we have developed an Active Inclusion Newcastle partnership, a group which responds to the growth in demand for information, advice and support in areas such as financial inclusion and housing services.

That sounds like the sort of dryly titled council entity that exits in the background, but what it does has a vital impact on the lives of thousands.
As a result of government cuts, for example,
Newcastle has the UK’s largest foodbank,
45,000 residents have been affected by welfare reform
and more than 13,000 of our economically active residents are out of work.

The scale of poverty and disadvantage and the change in the emphasis of the role of the welfare state from meeting basic needs to reducing welfare dependency has seen pressure like never before.

As a result, the inclusion unit provided advice to 26,950 people and accommodated 1,127 households.

Because of this partnership, 4,192 cases of homelessness were prevented, 8,901 residents supported to secure £24m of benefits hidden to them, and 3,857 residents were given advice to provide relief from excessive debt.

Look also at what we have done in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. In 2013 the Government abolished council tax benefit and cut the money available for local schemes. Despite losing more than £8m to help families meet their bills, we maintained a system which says if you are in the need the council will help meet the majority of your cost to us, as long as you make a small contribution.

Delivering social justice though is not just a job for the council. We only have to look at the Syrian refugee crisis to see how this city unites in the face of a challenge.

As the pictures of those escaping Isis became ever worse, the city stood together to say our commitment as a City of Sanctuary is more than just a slogan. From across Newcastle people came together on a Saturday morning to plan how we will house, feed, clothe and educate those who we proudly say we will take in.

Elsewhere, we see the responsibility of “delivering for all being” met across the city.

The Newcastle business community has a role to play in how its corporate social responsibility programmes capital investment programmes and employment practices can contribute to improving quality of life in the city.

The voluntary and community sector has already shown how it can do more with less, now it needs to show further how it can play a role in unlocking social capital and the potential for citizens to become more involved in shaping their own neighbourhoods.

And the wider public sector has an interest in how it can sustain social justice through greater collaboration across all sectors.

The fight to preserve social justice will not be an easy one, but we have a potentially powerful weapon. Our battle for a substantial devolution package in which the government matches the ambition of the region is nearing its final stage.

Here, we have placed people, jobs and growth at the centre of our demands. Too often, devolution is pictured in terms of businesses or buildings. So let me say clearly today that our devolution deal would fail if it did not deliver social justice at its heart.

The current work programme has made a start nationally in getting hard to reach families and individuals into work. But it is a blunt instrument, it has left many behind, it can measure success without worrying about its regional record and it has failed those furthest away from the labour market.

That is because it is run from Whitehall. We cannot afford for future employment programmes to face the same failings.

In skills and young people we want the responsibility to set out how we will train the region’s workforce to match the region’s needs, so the work force has the skills needed for the future.

We already see great efforts here by our trade unions, who work tirelessly to seek to retrain and redeploy their members and bring about job security in the process. With control of skills funding we can add to that work.

And in the wider sphere of public service reform, we see that too often people get left behind when Whitehall’s departmental approach struggles to deal with people with cross cutting needs. There are better ways to work more closely together, and the decision around how we do that should be taken here in the region, so we meet the needs of the individual not some distant government target.

Dealing with people in relation to what government department they fit into is no longer a model that works as austerity cuts deep.

Right now, the region’s ability to co-ordinate a response to the problems it sees here is limited because those different organisations talk to government first. That is wrong, the people dealing with the consequences of failure should be first in the queue when it comes to directing limited resources.

It has been said before of politicians that the best way to judge them is to look at the enemies they have made. In the fight for social justice I will proudly say that this my colleagues and I have picked the right battles.

In the Syrian refugee crisis we did not ignore the pleas for help when bigots would have had us turn away.
In fighting for the funds to do the job, we speak out against a chancellor hooked on austerity even as we batter down the door to the Treasury demanding devolution.

In the region itself, we look at those who say it has always been done this way and we say not any more, we pick our fights for reform because we want social justice to prevail, even if the money is not there to defend that cause.

In the city we do not pretend that our commitment to social justice is for the good times only. We know the test of our beliefs is when times are hard, that it is exactly when the pressure is on that we see our strength.

In creating jobs we have shown we are prepared to act,
in defending the vulnerable we continue to fight their cause,
and in standing up for social justice, we continue to position Newcastle as the example for others to follow.

Letter to the Chancellor on the Comprehensive Spending Review

September 8, 2015

Dear Chancellor,

The Comprehensive Spending Review is a chance to renew your relationship with local government and bring about a much needed correction to the way essential services are funded in Newcastle and across the north.

As you will know, Newcastle, as a city and a council, has faced a difficult five years as a result of disproportionate and unfair spending cuts. The city has lost £151m in government funding over this period, a figure entirely out of proportion with that lost by many other councils in the south of England.

Newcastle has been hit hard by changes to the council funding formula which appear to have been made without any consideration whatsoever to the impact on areas of higher deprivation.

The city was then hit again by a resource equalisation process which perversely sees councils with a higher tax base protected while others suffer further, and hit once more by a system which now seems designed to prevent consideration of adult and child care needs.

The council’s ability to respond to these challenges is limited by the fact that council tax here accounts for just 11 per cent of our overall budget. This situation is simply unsustainable.

It is time you as Chancellor acknowledged that a commitment to austerity without consideration of local need will push councils to the edge of a fiscal cliff.

Once past this point, the knock on effect will be felt by other public sector services, including the NHS and the police, services already facing their own financial pressures.

The threat is particularly severe in child care and protection. The numbers of looked after children in the region have increased and are considerably higher than less deprived areas. The North East has seen a 30% increase in the number of looked after children since 2009 while funding for children’s social care has been cut by over 40%.

The attached formal submission shows what could be achieved in Newcastle through the Comprehensive Spending Review. Issues of particular importance include:

New Homes Bonus
There is an urgent need to reform the New Homes Bonus. The current system funds the bonus through a top slice of local government resources, regardless of need, meaning councils such as Newcastle lose out. Newcastle is a net loser from the scheme and will continue to be so due to the way in which the top slice is removed from the scheme. In 2012/13 the council would have had to build an additional 251 homes to avoid incurring a loss in funding from the scheme.
As just one example, in 2014/15 Newcastle built 654 more properties than Wokingham but were net losers by £3.1m due to the way core funding is cut and the reward allocated.

New burdens
In previous years we have faced up to both cuts in funding and rising cost pressures. Now it has become apparent that there is a third factor hitting council finances in the form of new burdens imposed on local government by a Government who are happy to tell councils what to do but provide little in the way of funding to achieve those aims.

For example, the Summer Budget saw moves towards a National Living Wage and pay awards, but with no indication as to how the public sector will fund this. On the National Living Wage alone, meeting our care obligations will cost the council £20m a year.

Clearly, the situation as it is cannot go on. If the Government fails to address these and other issues raised in this submission, the result will be to reaffirm the view in the North East that this is austerity for the sake of austerity. The time has come to allow Newcastle the chance to grow, in a way which sees no one left behind.

We have worked hard over the last four years and during the recession to protect jobs, investing in the city so we were ready to take advantage of the upturn and secure a better future for Newcastle.

However, despite all of our success, continued cuts to public sector budgets put that potential for economic prosperity at risk and threaten to dismantle the support network available to the most vulnerable.

I urge you to think again about the scale of the cuts to local government and would ask that Newcastle is finally treated fairly in the allocation of Revenue Support grant.

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