Prime Minister David Cameron says Derby is getting fair deal
PRIME Minister David Cameron has insisted that cuts to Derby City Council's budget are "fair", despite a 12,000-name petition to the contrary.
The Fair Deal for Derby campaign is calling for the Government to reduce the cuts made to the city's grant, which total £75 per head since 2010 – compared to a national average of £62 per head for similar-sized councils.
But Mr Cameron said he did not believe the reductions were "unfair for individual councils" and the authority should "still be able to deliver good services".
During a visit to the Derby Telegraph yesterday, the Prime Minister also renewed a Government vow to consider the impact on the UK supply chain as part of tendering for a £1 billion train-building contract – boosting hopes for Bombardier.
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He said he would not accept failing schools in the city and supported converting Derby's struggling primaries to academies.
And he backed the Telegraph's Save a Life campaign, encouraging people to give blood and learn first aid, saying: "Saving lives isn't just about NHS professionals."
Derby City Council must do 'more with less' in face of cuts to grant
Firmly and without any doubt in his voice, Prime Minister David Cameron said he did not believe Derby had been treated "unfairly" by Government cuts to council grants.
Campaigners calling for a reduction in the cuts to Derby City Council's budget would beg to differ but Mr Cameron yesterday said the authority must "do more with less".
The Fair Deal for Derby campaign, which has cross-party support at the council, has organised a 12,000-name petition calling for a review of the grant slashing.
They point to statistics which say the amount lost in council budget since 2010 equates to £75 per head in Derby, compared to the national average of £62.
But during his visit to Derby Mr Cameron said that, while he would look at the petition, he did not believe the Government had made "unfair reductions on individual councils".
He said: "I think what's right to look at is what the Government spend per head is. It's still well over £500 per head in Derby compared to, for instance, the area I represent (Witney, Oxfordshire) where it's just over £300.
"So I still think Derby City Council should be able to deliver good services with a combination of grant and council tax.
"They need to try and do more with less.
"In many ways we should look at what Derbyshire police have achieved – they've had cuts and still managed to cut crime by 10%."
Asked whether he had a vision for what local authorities should be providing in the face of cuts, Mr Cameron said: "They will go on providing what they do now but they've got to provide more value for money.
"When I look across local government they have been effective at making spending reductions. Every council has to make its own decisions about what assets it retains, what assets it sells."
But Labour's Derby North MP Chris Williamson told the Telegraph the Prime Minister was living in "cloud-cuckoo land".
He said: "The number of properties in Band D or above in the Prime Minister's constituency will be far greater than it is in Derby.
"Over 50% of properties in Derby are in Band A.
"That means that a rise in council tax will pull in considerably more cash in Oxfordshire than it will do in Derby."
A combination of further reductions in its Government grant, inflation and Derby's growing population, means that the city council will need to cut about £20.2 million from its budget in the 2013-14 financial year.
To plug the gap, the council has proposed cutting jobs and things like funding for charities, covering over flower beds and "reviewing car parking charges".
Mr Williamson said that the maths had not yet been done to see exactly how the latest settlement would change statistics for how the people of Derby are affected.
But he said there was no doubt it would not improve matters.
He said: "There is a clear imbalance across the country – not just in Derby.
"In Knowsley, on Merseyside, for example, they have lost £260 per head. It can't be right that the poorest areas are suffering the most."
City council leader Paul Bayliss said Mr Cameron's comparison with Witney was "very amusing".
He said: "Comparing the relative wealth there with the city of Derby is interesting. They perhaps don't need as many public services."
MORE: Read more on Mr Cameron's visit under Related Articles, above right.