For the record, all statistics used will come either from the council websites, local media or the BBC. Hopefully this will mean the data can be considered reliable. I've also used direct comparisons and the most up to date data whenever possible. For example, population will be using the 2009 estimate but details of the percentage of residents in each age group will be based on the 2001 census figures.
As you can see from this, both councils are relatively similar in terms of their residents. When it comes to employment and life expectancy, Manchester is significantly worse off but in most others it is only one or two points more worse off at most. Sheffield is also slightly larger and has a lower average weekly wage. Both have to provide a similar level of social housing and both have similar levels of unqualified residents. Manchester has a smaller elderly and non-adult population percentage-wise than Sheffield so presumably has to provide slightly less education and care home facilities.
Some people have been pointing out that I haven't mentioned what services the councils were providing for the cuts so here's a table to show you what they look like (when it comes to schools I've excluded academies and independent schools):
Now let's look at their financial situation:
|Edit: this is an updated table to correct the figure for total cuts to Sheffield|
Despite this, Manchester is making far more substantial cuts, including closing all but one public toilet and making over nine times more people redundant than Sheffield is.
So what we can say overall is this. Manchester is in a slightly worse position than Sheffield economically and demographically and therefore the effect of cuts should be worse there than in Sheffield. After all, Sheffield is being forced to make smaller cuts to a larger population. However, the difference in circumstances between the two councils is not enough to explain the vast difference in the way in which the respective councils are making the cuts. Sheffield is making cuts with an emphasis on minimising redundancies and front-line service closures. Manchester is cutting both jobs and front-line services across the board. Frankly, I think the statistics speak for themselves. Almost no front-line services are being closed in Sheffield while Manchester is closing dozens of surestart centres and youth centres. Given the difference in situations, you would expect some front-line services to be shut and more redundancies in Manchester but nowhere near the scale that we are seeing. It also seems clear that Manchester council hasn't looked at many cost saving measures that Sheffield has - for example, Sheffield is going to start sharing back room services with other councils to cut costs.
Sheffield Lib Dems have shown that it is possible to handle large cuts without gutting crucial services. Manchester Labour seem almost to have taken delight in making such savage cuts and then blaming them on the Coalition. It is also deeply telling that Labour in Sheffield didn't propose their own alternative budget despite the fact that they could have gotten it voted through if they'd persuaded the three Green and Independent councillors to vote for it. This indicates to me that, not only did the Lib Dems in Sheffield protect their city from the cuts, they did it to such an extent that the opposition couldn't think of a better way to do it.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that the example of Sheffield vs. Manchester is a fair comparison and shows, as many have argued, that councils do not need to make substantial service cuts and redundancies just to balance the budget. Labour's cuts in Manchester seem deeply political on the back of all this.