Cuts could 'break up society', council leaders warn

Wall on an estate in Leeds Withdrawal of aid to deprived areas has hit northern cities hardest, say the signatories.

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The government's cuts programme could lead to "problems on our streets" and "the break-up of civil society", three Labour council leaders have warned.

The leaders of Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield councils believe the cuts unfairly penalise northern England relative to the South.

They were "in danger of creating a deeply divided nation", the three said in a letter to the Observer newspaper.

A government spokesman said funding for councils was "fair".

The letter was a response to the latest cuts to council budgets announced earlier this month - of 2%, in addition to the reductions of about 28% already forced on authorities.

It was written by Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes, Sheffield leader Julie Dore, and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson.

They believe northern English cities have been hit harder by the coalition government's austerity programme, partly because of the withdrawal of support to deprived areas in place under the previous government.

"Rising crime, increasing community tension and more problems on our streets will contribute to the break-up of civil society if we do not turn back," the council leaders warned.

"The unfairness of the Government's cuts is in danger of creating a deeply divided nation. We urge them to stop what they are doing now and listen to our warnings before the forces of social unrest start to smoulder."

A government spokesman said funding for councils was "fair", and that local authorities could protect front-line services by dipping into their reserves and eliminating waste.

The Observer quoted a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman as saying: "Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to help pay off the inherited budget deficit.

"This is a fair settlement - fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and metropolitan areas."

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