New ‘heat maps’ have graphically revealed the unequal and unfair distribution of a controversial £300million Government fund for councils in England.
The Transition Funding Grant scheme was introduced by the Government last year to provide £300million of additional funding to soften the blow of budget cuts for councils over two years.
The maps have been produced by Nottingham City Council as part of ongoing efforts to get answers from the Government on how it decided to allocate the funds. They clearly illustrate how this additional funding was handed out overwhelmingly to more affluent councils in the south of the country which, over recent years of austerity, have escaped serious cuts to their Government funding. At the same time, more northerly places like Nottingham, Derby and Leicester which have borne the brunt of severe funding cuts from Government received no additional money.
The three heat maps show:
- The relative levels of Transition Grant received by councils over the last two years
- The political control of the councils receiving Transition Grant funding over the last two years
- The political control of the councils not receiving Transition Grant funding over the last two years.
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 through Freedom of Information requests and Written Parliamentary Questions. Despite this, key questions about the methods and motives behind this cash distribution are still unanswered.
Councillor Chapman is raising questions about the probity and fairness of the initiative, which has mainly benefited councils serving well-off areas in the south – including Surrey County Council. Through the scheme Surrey gained £24m – the most for any council – despite seeing cuts of only £16 per household compared to Nottingham’s cuts of £71 per household. Nottingham gained nothing through the scheme. Earlier this month Surrey also became the subject of allegations around a ‘sweetheart’ funding deal with the Government over Adult Social Care and a proposed Council Tax Referendum.
A recent National Audit Office (NAO) investigation into the Government’s 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.”
Councillor Chapman is once again calling on the Government to “come clean” on the Transition Grant Scheme and to fully explain their decisions about how the money was allocated together with revealing the source of the funding and why levels of need and demand were not taken into account. He will send the new maps to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid to illustrate the point.
Councillor Chapman said: “These new heat maps show us graphically for the first time the real picture of the unfair way the money from the Transition Grant Scheme was handed out across the country. We can clearly see how the largest pots of funding has been concentrated in Conservative councils in the south of the country while more northerly, predominantly Labour councils have received little or nothing.
“All the time our questions about this scheme continue to go unanswered, the whiff of scandal around the Transition Grant Funding scheme will persist – especially when significant question-marks remain over funding for Surrey County Council which is the largest beneficiary of this scheme. It’s time for the Government to open up on this matter and let us know why decisions were taken and where they found the money to do this.”