Biggest Council Spending Cuts in North East in Areas With Highest Child Poverty

Biggest Council Spending Cuts in North East in Areas With Highest Child Poverty

Guest Blog by Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, School of Applied Social Science, Durham University

It is already clear that the Coalition Government’s austerity measures have been loaded on lower income families with children. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies[1] in Figure 1 provides a summary of the distributional consequences of accumulated changes to taxes and benefits (but not services). The cuts have borne most heavily on children and on poor children.

Figure 1: Distributional consequences already unfair – between generations and incomes

IFS graph of impact of tax and benefit changes

It has been more difficult to trace the distributional consequences of cuts in services. It is very difficult to summarise the impact of austerity on local services. But there is no doubt that these cuts have also been unfair. An analysis by Newcastle City Council[2] has produced a data base on the size of the cuts 2010/11-2014/15 in revenue per head of population by local authority area and Figure 2 shows the relationship of the cuts to the child poverty rate in each area. Those areas with the highest level of child poverty are suffering the largest cuts.

Figure 2: Cuts in spending by child poverty rate. Local authorities in England

Graph of cuts and child poverty link

Figure 3 extracts the local authorities in the NE and shows that in the NE the local authorities with the highest child poverty rates have had the highest cuts in their budgets.

Figure 3: Cuts in spending by child poverty rate. Local authorities in the North East

Graph of cuts and child poverty in North East

The child poverty rate here is the IDACI index from the index of deprivation. This is the proportion of children in an area receiving means-tested benefits or tax credits with incomes less than 60% median. The areas with the highest child poverty rates have not just suffered the largest cuts in spending on services. They have also had the largest cuts in household incomes as benefits have been uprated for three years by 1% while inflation has been running at over 2%, quite apart from the impact of unemployment, benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, ESA and PIP reassessments.

The cuts have also been shown to be highest in the areas with the highest levels of premature mortality[3].

The analysis is inevitably a preliminary one – in two respects:

  • First, the austerity measures are still being rolled out – according to the Office of Budget Responsibility[4], in the current expenditure review period up to 2015/16, expenditure as a % of GDP is planned to fall by 4.7% points and by the end of the next review period in 2018/19 it is expected to have declined by 8.2% points. This will take UK expenditure as a proportion of GDP below Japan’s and to US type levels[5].
  • Second and connected, most of the evidence on outcomes is still to emerge. Indeed, it may well be a decade (as it was in the 1980s recession) before we will see the full impact of youth unemployment. Most of the key indicators for children are too old to show any effects of the recession. But there is enough to cause alarm.

It is also important to note that these reversals follow a period of sustained improvements in child well-being in the UK. The national evidence suggests that on most key indicators child well-being was improving between 1999 and 2010[6]. The comparative evidence shows that the UK moved up the international league table on child well-being over the same period[7].

[1] Cribb, J., Hood, A., Joyce, R. & Phillips, D. (2013) Living Standards, Poverty & Inequality in the UK: 2013, London: Institute for Fiscal Studies:, p 78

[2] Butler P. Council spending cuts: the north loses out to the south. Patrick Butler’s Cuts

Blog. Guardian 2013.


[3] BMJ 2013;347:f4208

[4] Office for Budget Responsibility (2014) Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2014. Table 4.15

[5] IMF WEO database March 2014

[6] Bradshaw, J. (ed) (2011) The well-being of children in the United Kingdom, Third Edition, Bristol: Policy Press

Bradshaw, J. (2012) Child wellbeing in the 2000s in Judge, L. (ed)  Ending child poverty by 2020: Progress made and lessons learned. London: Child Poverty Action Group pp 11-16

[7] Martorano, B., L. Natali, C. de Neubourg and J. Bradshaw (2013). 'Child Wellbeing in Economically Rich Countries: Changes in the first decade of the 21st century', Working Paper 2013-02. UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.


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