Cuts Watch #222: Further cuts to the Working Neighbourhood Fund
In June, £49.9 million was cut from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, an area based grant paid to local authorities by the Department for Communities (CLG). The funding is intended to support attempts to tackle concentrations of worklessness in deprived areas. The cut was accompanied by a removal of the ring-fence around the grant – and it appears that this has been used by several local authorities as an opportunity to cut even more money from this important initiative.
The Fund has been used differently across local authority areas. For example, in Lambeth the grant supports education and employment initiatives that aim to tackle young people’s involvement in gangs and serious crime; employment and education support for teenage parents; and an active citizens hub in Brixton, which encourages people to play active roles in their communities and to build their skills and experience. The Birmingham Fund has supported an equally diverse range of projects, including the Community Chest which allows voluntary organisations to bid for funds and the Jobs Academy for those facing long-term unemployment.
But today Regeneration and Renewal have reported that as a result of the removal of the ring-fence, many local authorities have chosen to even make larger cuts to the Working Neighbourhood’s Fund than were recommended by CLG. Their research documents local authority cuts including:
- Birmingham City Council has cut its £70 million budget by £7 million – £3 million more than was recommended.
- Bolton Council was advised to cut its £7 million budget by £694,000, but has in fact cut £2.2 million.
- Burnley Borough Council cut its £2.1 million budget by £278,000, compared with the DCLG’s recommendation of £264,000.
The combination of significant budget cuts in area based grants, combined with the removal of ringfencing, inevitably meant that these sorts of additional cuts would be on the cards – devolving decision making to local government means that where they disagree with national priorities less funding will be made available. At times of public spending constraint, it also seems likely that some local authorities will chose to cut the programmes that have lower overall public awareness and that provide support to those constituencies with the least voice – programmes for the most vulnerable are at greatest risk.