Coalition swings the axe

THE coalition started to embark on the biggest spending cuts in a generation yesterday, as a line of government ministers detailed where the axe will fall.

Local councils will see the amount of cash they get from central government slashed by 17 per cent, or around £6.5bn, next year.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said that no council would suffer a reduction in its total spending power of more than 8.9 per cent, once council tax receipts and NHS funding for social care is taken into account. The average reduction will be 4.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, Pickles unveiled his localism bill, which gives councils more control over local planning decisions. It also paves the way for communities to take over libraries and other services that are threatened with closure.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect some services, such as child protection and support for the disabled, meaning more widely-used services like libraries and swimming pools will bear the brunt of cuts.

Meanwhile, policing minister Nick Herbert said police forces in England and Wales would face cuts in central funding of four per cent next year, and five per cent in the year after.

Herbert acknowledged that the savings would be “challenging”, but said front-line services could be shielded by efficiencies and back-office savings.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education admitted that schools in England and Wales would not see their budgets rise in real terms over the next four years, due to rising prices.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Spending totals were based on its best forecast of inflation at the time, produced by independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

“We always knew these were forecasts of inflation and subject to change – undoubtedly these will change again.

“We have not cut the schools budget totals – cash limits remain as announced in the Spending Review.”