The Government is set to bring back a controversial £300m funding scheme which, despite two years of repeated requests, it still refuses to reveal the distribution criteria for.
The Transitional Grant went mainly to well-off county councils in the south and to better off outer London boroughs at the expense of more deprived areas which had suffered the greatest cuts.
The revelation that it is set to continue for another two years is contained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to Nottingham City Council Deputy Leader Councillor Graham Chapman.
The fund was brought in by the Government in 2016 for a two-year period only as a short-term response to changes to the overall grant funding formula. At no point previously has the Government announced that Transition Grant will continue beyond this limited period.
But a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to Councillor Chapman states that:
“In 2016-17, ministers consulted and decided to provide the Transition Grant in 2016-17 and 2017-18. We expect that ministers will need to consider this issue again in consulting on the 2018-19 and 2019-20 settlements, not least because we know that many authorities have called for the Transition Grant to be extended to these years. Government policy on the Transition Grant, therefore, remains under development until the end of the four year settlement period.”
Despite repeated FOI requests from Cllr Chapman, the DCLG has refused to provide details of how the funds were allocated, stating that it is not in the public interest and that information cannot be divulged while it is an active policy – something now set to continue for a further two years according to the FOI information.
Places like Nottingham, Derby and Leicester received nothing from the Transition Grant scheme leading to accusations that the process was “unfair and divisive”. The City Council produced heatmaps to show the unfair distribution of the funding.
A National Audit Office (NAO) investigation into the Transition Grant Scheme found that “…. the overall reductions in spending power experienced by authorities either in this or previous settlements were not involved in the design of the grant. The level of need or demand for local services was also not considered.”
The NAO was also unable to identify where the funding has come from saying “In the course of our investigation the Department has not given us further details on the source of the funds.”
Nottingham City Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Graham Chapman has been pursuing details of how the Government decided to distribute this funding for over a year and a half through Freedom of Information requests and Written Parliamentary Questions. Despite this, key questions about the methods and motives behind this cash distribution are still being withheld and remain unanswered.
Councillor Chapman is calling on the Government to end its secrecy over the controversial fund and give full details of how the money is allocated and the source of the funding.
Councillor Chapman says: “It beggars belief that the Government seem set on repeating a process that gave millions of pounds to wealthier parts of the country at the expense of places in the Midlands and the North which have been hit harder by the effects of austerity.
“Despite numerous Freedom of Information requests, we are still being blocked from knowing key details about how this Transition Grant funding was worked out and allocated.
“It’s time for the Government to come clean about this unfair and divisive Transition Grant and stop blocking reasonable requests for clarity on how it has been distributed. The Government should also urgently confirm or deny their future intentions over Transition Grant and ensure that future council funding is done on a basis that is fair to all parts of the country.”