Diana Johnson: 'It's time for our city to unite and sign Fair Deal For Hull petition'
Today the House of Commons will debate the latest proposals on local government funding. Hull North MP Diana Johnson outlines why it is so important for the city ...
Whatever people think about the coalition's overall cut to local government funding nationally, it's a fact that Hull has been hit by a larger than average share of this cut.
This is grossly unfair to people in the tenth most-deprived local authority area in the country.
In the past two years, Hull City Council has lost £163.50 for each person, compared with a national average loss of £74 per head.
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Hull has also taken a far larger share of government council funding cuts than many wealthier areas, mainly in the South. North Dorset lost only £2.70 per head.
From this April, up to 2015, Hull will lose a further 7.2 per cent in what the Government calls "spending power".
In the same period, David Cameron's West Oxfordshire Council gets a 1.1 per cent increase in spending power. So much for "all in it together".
Hull City Council is also having, with great reluctance, to increase council tax by 1.95 per cent, ending the previous freeze.
This comes at a time when incomes are already being squeezed by tax and benefit changes, food and fuel prices add to the cost of living and hundreds of local jobs are being lost.
We already see increasing numbers of Hull people, including those in work, in serious financial hardship – some forced into the exploitative hands of loan sharks. Hull's food banks are busier than ever.
Alongside the "bedroom tax" and other government benefit changes arriving this April, is the change to council tax benefit that will see the poorest now forced to pay towards the rising council tax bills. This comes in the same week as 8,000 millionaires will get an average windfall of £107,000 from the cut to the 50p income tax.
Hull people are paying for a global economic crisis caused five years ago in the banking industry, and for the two years of zero growth under the current Government, by seeing their local services cut further.
Local services under pressure include refuse collection, school transport, libraries and SureStart children's centres. Charges for meals on wheels are, like council tax, also increasing.
The backlog of pothole repairs on local roads will get worse.
No matter what efforts Hull councillors make to find efficiencies and set priorities, tough decisions are having to be made on local services in the face of grossly unfair treatment from Whitehall.
Since the 1920s, it has generally been accepted that richer areas should help subsidise poorer ones. The current Government is gradually reversing this principle.
As well as Hull's council services seeing further cuts, more police and fire services cuts also feature in the plans Eric Pickles is putting through the Commons. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is seeing a 7.6 per cent cut up to 2015.
We know the Lib Dems, up to the 2010 General Election, promised 3,000 more police officers, but instead we have 20 per cent police cuts and Humberside already has the lowest police numbers since 1979.
We will hear much from the Government about "localism" – but their form of localism is about devolving blame, not power.
In response to protests about the way they are skewing the share of local government funding against deprived areas such as Hull, the Government hides behinds schemes, such as what it calls the New Homes Bonus.
However, the common factor with government schemes is that already wealthier areas are far better placed to take advantage of them. They do little for Hull.
Much-publicised government policies such as the Pupil Premium do not compensate for the basic funding that Hull schools are losing.
In 2011-12, Hull City Council had £6,516 to spend on education and support services per pupil. Kensington and Chelsea could afford to spend £8,920 per pupil.
It suits this Government to use the tactic of divide and rule between the users of different local services.
We'll get nowhere in Hull by falling for this and just blaming Labour councillors for the situation forced upon them by the Government's unfair treatment of Hull.
This is a time for unity in Hull. That's why I'm launching a petition to the House of Commons to campaign for a Fair Deal For Hull.
The Fair Deal For Hull petition reads: "To the House of Commons. The Petition of Citizens of Hull declares their belief that Hull has been hit by an unfairly large share of the cuts imposed on local councils by the Government.
"We note that these cuts have so far amounted to £163.50 per person in Hull — more than double the national average of £74 per person.
"We further note that Hull is due to lose 7.2 per cent more in the two years until 2015, and that Hull City Council would have millions more to spend on local services and to keep the council tax down if Hull was given fairer funding.
"We ask the House of Commons to urge the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to give Hull a Fair Deal."
I want Hull people to come together, as we did over the caravan tax last year, to back the Fair Deal campaign.
Efficient local services are essential to our quality of life in Hull and the jobs they provide are a vital part of our local economy – especially after losing so many private sector jobs in recent months.
We hope for better news from Siemens and the green energy industry soon, but we cannot afford to just rely on this happening.
The Fair Deal For Hull petition is available for anyone wanting to help collect names for it from the petitions page of my website at www.dianajohnson.co.uk or from my office on 01482 319135.
I will keep Hull people updated on the Fair Deal For Hull campaign as it develops through my Twitter at @DianaJohnsonMP – and, of course, through the Mail.