Hartlepool faces another £3.32million in cuts

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Finance chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council are carefully analysing the latest settlement grant from the Government amid worries that budgets could have to be further slashed.

Figures released yesterday show that the council will lose £3.32m in Government grants in the next financial year - an average of £74 per household.

Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

Christopher Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

News of the annual settlement grant for 2016/17 comes after the Mail reported last week that Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be considering meeting Hartlepool’s council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher over financial cuts the town is facing.

Coun Akers-Belcher has written to Mr Cameron as the council prepares for further major cuts in Government funding.

He said the town has been hit hard after seeing its Government grant cut by almost 40% in the last five years, with forecasts suggesting further council funding cuts of up to 10% per year over the next four years.

The council has also been hit by a £3.9million business rates cut from Hartlepool Power Station after a Valuation Office Agency review.

We are currently analysing the data and it is too early for us to be able to comment on them in any detail.

Council spokesman

Reports say councils in England are set to see their funding cut by 2.8% next year as part of a shake-up of the way town halls are financed.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced details of a new four-year settlement, with councils expected to rely on funds raised locally rather than Whitehall grants by the end of the decade.

Under the provisional funding settlement for 2016/17, councils’ “spending power” per dwelling will fall from £1,881 this year to £1,829.

A council spokesman said: “We have received our provisional financial settlement for 2016/17 along with some indicative figures for subsequent years.

“We are currently analysing the data and it is too early for us to be able to comment on them in any detail.

“We note, however, that in a press release the Department for Communities and Local Government is predicting that by the end of this decade councils will be financed from revenues raised locally, including council tax and business rates, rather than central government grant.

“This concerns us greatly given our reliance on business rates from the town’s power station and the recent decision to reduce its rateable value by 48% which will cost the council £3.9million in lost income every year.”

In the letter to Mr Cameron, Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Over the last five years (2011/12 to 2015/16) Hartlepool council has seen its main Government grant reduced by almost 40%.

“This equates to a cut in spending power per Hartlepool resident of £313, which is more than twice the national average cut of £131 per resident.

“To me this does not feel fair and equitable, especially as the affluent Windsor & Maidenhead area has seen its spending power reduce by just £14 per resident.”