Sheffield people suffer as austerity bites – with more cuts ahead

Head of the New Economics Foundation, Miatta Fahnbulleh, addressing full council
Head of the New Economics Foundation, Miatta Fahnbulleh, addressing full council

Austerity has had a “significant impact” on Sheffield people with the poor hit hardest – and further cuts are on the horizon.

Those are the bleak findings of a new report into how Sheffield has been floored by nine years of Government cuts and welfare reforms. The council has seen a £430m reduction in funding this past decade.

The cuts have hit at the same time as changes to the benefits and tax system creating a perfect storm.

Welfare cuts are expected to continue into the 2020s with over £4bn due to be slashed nationally over the next five years.

The impact of welfare reform has been felt across Sheffield but is significantly higher in more deprived wards. Firth Park, Southey and Burngreave have been hardest hit while Broomhill, Fulwood and Central have been least affected.

Deprivation in the city is “more polarised”. Nearly a quarter of Sheffield’s small areas are in the most deprived 10 per cent nationally. Three small areas in the city are within the one per cent most deprived in England.

Poverty, particularly among children, has increased significantly nationwide. The number of children living in poverty has increased more quickly for certain families – in particular lone parents who work part time and couples with one full time working parent and one non-working parent.

The average salary in Sheffield lags behind other cities. Sheffielders can expect to earn on average £27,708 compared to £29,639 in Manchester and £28,054 in Leeds.

Employment has grown but the nature of work is changing with increasing numbers of people in part-time employment.

The report is by the head of the New Economics Foundation, Miatta Fahnbulleh, and James Henderson, the council’s director of policy, performance and communications.

Ms Fahnbulleh told a meeting of the full council that local government was one of the “biggest losers” with austerity.

“Eight years on and the cuts are starting to bite in a real way as councils up and down the country are starting to hit the limit of ways in which they can manage austerity creatively, in order to protect their communities.

“There have been heroic efforts by councils but people are starting to feel the impact of austerity and the public mood is starting to change. A few years ago the public thought austerity was an unpleasant necessity and people are now starting to turn against it.”

Some government departments, such as defence and health and social care, have been protected but departments such as housing and communities have seen a budget cut of 57 per cent. Transport suffers the worst with cuts of 77 per cent.

Last October, the Prime Minister said austerity was over and the Government later announced £90bn of investment.

But Ms Fahnbulleh said there needs to be at least another £50bn invested. “This investment will be hoovered up by the NHS and will barely scratch the surface. The grim reality is unprotected departments are likely to see a continued squeeze.”

The national figures show:

Funding for Legal Aid has reduced by almost 40 per cent since 2010

Cuts have been “uneven” between local authorities with Sheffield being one of the worst hit

Non-social care services have seen “significant funding reductions” as councils try to protect the most vulnerable residents

The poorest fifth of households will be £400 a year worse off by 2023

The richest fifth of households will be £390 better off by 2023