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“Gulf in council spending may divide society”

“Cuts may force councils to stop funding arts and leisure services by 2015” and “Britain’s poorest and most deprived areas hit hardest as society becomes unacceptably more divided”. SDCR_media1These were just some of the week’s headlines as newspapers and radio stations around the UK reported on our recent publication. The study reveals the scale and pattern of cuts in spending on local government in England and Scotland since 2010, demonstrating that cuts in spending power and budgeted spend are systematically greater in more deprived local authorities than in more affluent ones – a difference of around £100 per head in both England and Scotland. The study also reflects on how these cuts to public spending will affect poor areas and vulnerable groups. SDCR_media2

Professor Glen Bramley was interviewed on six local BBC radio stations, including Radio Scotland (listen here, at 4:44 minutes into the programme), while Glasgow University researcher Professor Annette Hastings was interviewed for LBC Radio and Radio Merseyside and Dr. Nick Bailey was interviewed for BBC 1’s Look East programme.

SDCR_media3National and regional papers each reported on different aspects of the report. The Guardian, in an online article written by Patrick Butler, initially focuses more on the cuts to arts and leisure services, libraries in particular. The Guardian also hosted an online discussion – involving local authority staff and a range of experts and practitioners – focusing on how councils in poorer communities can best cope with the cuts. The Birmingham Mail specifically looked at the implications of the report for the North and Midlands, while the Scotsman considered the implications for the future of local government in Scotland. Most newspapers wrote more generally about the unequal distribution of cuts and how this may be contributing to a more divided society. This was the focus of most of the coverage, including reports in The Herald The Independent and the Mirror. Other websites which covered the report included Real Radio Scotland and STV news.

“Coping with the cuts? Local government and poorer communities” is a report by Annette Hastings, Nick Bailey, Kirsten Besemer, Glen Bramley, Maria Gannon and David Watkins. It is part of a large Joseph Rowntree Foundation funded research project called Serving Deprived Communities in a Recession.

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  1. And hence why local arts groups are trying hard in communities like Govan where I live to do all they can to engage people in arts and leisure activities. Thanks to the hard work of Heads Up Govan, our group, we have reinvigorated and helped to maintain the the oldest fair in Scotland; and only yesterday, we had a Xmas procession with reindeers and fireworks and free food, which then congregated at the Elder Park Library (bequeathed) which had stalls of arts etc. It’s the hard work, effort of lots of volunteers that are trying to ameliorate the cuts to arts and the significance they play in touching young lives in very poor areas of large cities. Areas that are forgotten about in almost every way, inc environmental services which are almost invisible here. What we need is the communication structures to pull disparate arts and youth projects together to gain capacity and share more efficiently any public resources that may be available. We’ve been successful in a recent grant and there are artists and writers active here dependent on volunteers input and talent to challenge assumptions about the value of the arts in poor areas. Next week we hold an exhibition at the Transport Museum about Govan Fair, with free rides/food/stalls over Fri-Sun. That’s down to the work of volunteering. Problem is, the Central Govan Action Plan focusing on remedial works, (e.g. to monoblock pavements where there has been housing developments), which in my opinion, should be mainstream, not regeneration funds. The whole town centre regeneration fund focuses on street scape, shop facades etc, which has been great. But they sculpt into the pavement, signposting people to the Govan Ferry to take people to the museum. But the ferry closed, lack of public subsidy. That’s how we came up with the Heads Up Govan: don’t get off at Partick to go the museum, head up to Govan to get there, and stop looking down at the pavement to avoid the dog fouling (which is awful and out of control here). Heads Up Govan!!

    December 4, 2013

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