Chancellor's cuts are 'unfair'

The Dean of Newcastle has attacked the level of cutbacks to the North-East in a letter to the Chancellor.

The Very Reverend Chris Dalliston argues in his letter that the cuts are "unfair".

He outlined his concerns after the Chancellor warned about the full extent of the austerity measures over the next few years.

Mr Dalliston said he appreciated the necessity for the region to share in the "painful cuts" in order to stabilise the economy.

However, he said he was "puzzled" to hear that cuts in public services and considerable job losses are being made "due to the disproportionate cut in central funding that the North East is being expected to bear".

"These cuts will, if I read this right, be further exacerbated by additional cuts to be made in Council funding announced in your autumn statement," he said.

"According to the City Council there would be some £20 million more to deploy in the current year if the settlement for our city was on the same scale as the national average. As I know you will be aware, they argue that the per capita cut in spending power borne by Newcastle is virtually double that of the national average.

"If their argument is correct then my reading is that the effect on the North East is even more disproportionate, inasmuch as the people of the north east and the economy of the region, are more exposed and vulnerable to such reductions than elsewhere."

Mr Dalliston said the cathedral was encountering more and more people living on benefits and unable to find employment.

He raised concern about the cuts to benefits at a time when "the jobs which they are being urged to take up simply do not exist".

According to figures on the Office of Statistics website employment levels are lowest (66.9%) and unemployment rates highest (10.4%) in the North East.

Over 1,000 employees from Newcastle City Council will be added to that number in the coming months, he further warned.

"These are not people who shirk work but who are desperate to find it," he said.

"I would like to believe that however difficult the cuts we must endure will be, there will at least be, as you have said, an equitable bearing of the burden.

"However even the recent report of the Audit Commission (Tough Times 2012: Councils Financial Health in Challenging Times) indicates that reduction in funding is in direct proportion to the level of deprivation. In other words poorer communities are being hardest hit. Can this be true? Can it be fair?"

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