Another day, another inadequate Brexit scheme from the government. Theresa May is offering £1.6bn of funding for England’s so-called left-behind towns that generally voted to leave. In turn, the Labour MPs who represent such places have dismissed it as a “bribe” to buy their votes for the withdrawal agreement next time it comes to parliament.
As May has shown no sign of reversing the effects of austerity on these towns since 2010 until now, we can assume it’s a play for the votes of Labour MPs – even if it will be spent regardless of whether the meaningful vote passes.
But it’s not even a very good bribe. Here’s why.
It’s only a tenth of overall local funding cuts by government since 2010
£1.6bn will be spent across an unspecified number of towns until 2026.
In contrast, by next year, local authorities will have suffered a reduction to core government funding of nearly £16bn since the austerity programme began in 2010, according to the Local Government Association.
It is only half of the overall funding gap in public services for 2019/20 alone
As of last December, councils were facing a funding gap of £3.2bn in 2019/20, double May’s cash injection, which won’t all be spent until 2026 anyway.
Once portioned out, the regional spend is less than cuts dealt out to some individual councils in those regions since 2010
The regional allocation of this funding shows that some individual councils have been cut by more than their entire regional allocation since 2010. For example, May is spending £105m of the £1.6bn on the north east – but County Durham has lost £224m in central government funding since 2010, Gateshead has lost £157m, and Newcastle City Council has lost £283m.
Gareth Snell, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, has pointed out to the Guardian that the overall money allocated to his region, the West Midlands – at £212m – is “less than the total amount that Stoke City Council has had to cut from its budget” in the last nine years.
This article was changed after publication to clarify that May’s cash injection would not go half way to filling the 2019/20 £3.2bn funding gap.