Sunderland and Newcastle – a tale of two cities

6 08 2010

Sunderland has announced its in-year spending cuts following the government funding reductions, with youth services and employment schemes bearing the brunt.

As is the case nationally, Connexions is taking a big hit, losing £800,000 from cuts to area based grants and also seeing its activity agreement pilot terminated. 41 full-time equivalent jobs are at risk, while the Connexions Delivery Team will require a major restructuring.

A £1.084m cut to Working Neighbourhoods Fund grants will have an impact on Sunderland’s employment schemes. The council is deleting five posts from the Visible Workspaces programme, which aims to encourage the development of more space for new and small businesses throughout the city. The Boosting Enterprise scheme, which identifies potential entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, is being reduced, while two projects to identify new business opportunities and a project to help lone parents into employment have been deleted. It’s not immediately clear whether these employment schemes were proving successful or not.

Next door to Sunderland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne has managed to avoid major in-year reductions by relying on underspends, contingencies, savings and reserves to mitigate frontline cuts.

Transport capital grant reductions have been met by rephasing work on existing projects, while the council is using a one-off corporate contribution of £796k to reduce cuts to youth services.

Council funding for the Connexions service has nevertheless been cut by £250k, achieved through a combination of reviewing the central services contract with the Connexions Hub, restricting non-staffing spend and withdrawing Saturday opening at Percy Street due to low levels of utilisation.

Of course, while some councils (not all) are mitigating against in-year frontline cuts to the extent that they can by relying on underspends and contingencies, this is just coping with a mildly choppy wave. When the tsunami hits after the October spending review, such nuances and niceties will be swept away.




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