By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
CONSERVATIVE MPs have been urged to oppose a key Government policy and support deprived communities.
Mark Eastwood, newly elected in Dewsbury, and Jason McCartney, re-elected in Colne Valley, each received an open letter from Kirklees Council’s Labour Leader Shabir Pandor.
In it he says the council faces losing more than £6m in the Government’s Fair Funding Review, which will impact on social care provision – and calls for their “urgent support” to prevent it.
The sharply-worded letter – also signed by Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Andrew Gwynne – condemns the review as “just another Conservative plan to take hundreds of millions from deprived communities and funnel it towards leafy Tory shires.”
It goes on to say that vital funding will be shifted to richer areas “at the expense of further hardship on our area” with the most vulnerable losing out.
It adds: “You must know local people can’t afford to see services slashed even further, and you must know that these changes are wrong.”
The letter ends with a warning: “This is a major test of your commitment to (your constituency) – local people will not forgive and not forget if you fail at the first hurdle.”
It received a robust response from Mr Eastwood (pictured above) and Mr McCartney, who both dismissed the letter as an exercise in political point-scoring based on “the speculative nature” of the figures, which were published by the Local Government Association.
In a written response Mr Eastwood said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the tone of the letter and called on Coun Pandor to move forward “in a positive spirit of co-operation”.
He wrote: “Every year the LGA does good work in pushing the government hard before the budget to get more funds for councils, and this year is no exception.
“However the basis of your claim is flawed.
“The report contains numerous caveats such as, ‘This analysis only looks at one segment of one of the parts of the Fair Funding Review, so no conclusion can, or should, be drawn about the potential overall outcome of the review for any local authority’.”
Fresh analysis of the LGA’s figures by Labour shows 37 of the 51 Tory seats gained in last year’s General Election are in areas set to lose out on almost £300m in social care funding.
It claims the vast majority – around £250m – will be diverted to Shire counties as part of a new formula that “dramatically” downgrades the importance of deprivation in assessing need in favour of “per head” funding.
The changes have been described as “unfair” and “the thin end of the wedge”.
Coun Pandor went further, calling it “a funding stitch-up”.
He added: “Kirklees is due to lose millions. After 10 years of Tory rule, the social care crisis has got worse and worse and worse.
“These changes will force further cuts, and further hardship – and once again the most vulnerable in society will lose out.”