LGA chair Lord Porter says a “disappointing” Spring Statement missed an opportunity to provide further desperately-needed funding for council services this year – especially after calls to find extra one-off funding for councils in the last Autumn Budget were met.
Now, Porter fears the Government’s plan to publish the Spending Review alongside the Autumn Budget this year could exacerbate council funding challenges – severely hampering their ability to plan ahead for next year and beyond.
The chancellor used the Statement to announce that – assuming a Brexit deal is agreed – he would launch a “full three-year spending review” before the summer break.
This, he said, will be used to set departmental budgets beyond the NHS, with the review “reflecting the public’s priorities between areas like social care, local government, schools, police, defence and the environment”
Porter said the sums councils had to maintain services communities rely on were “running out fast” amid “huge uncertainty” as to how local services will be paid for into the next decade.
“Brexit cannot be a distraction from the challenges facing our public services. If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them.
“Fully funding councils is the only way councils will be able to keep providing the services which matter to people’s lives, continue to lead their local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services, and save money for the taxpayer,” said Porter.
By the LGA’s figures, between 2010 and 2020 councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services.
The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils.
Also “disappointed” is the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) which now pins its hopes on the spending review to address the “dire” state of council finances and the impact of any Brexit related economic downturn on demands for frontline services.
APSE chief executive Paul O’Brien said member councils saw no visible end to austerity.
“We would urge the Chancellor to use the spending Review consultation as an opportunity to genuinely listen to local government and work through the means to ensure adequate future funding.
“We also welcome the assurances that CSR will be set on a three year basis to allow better medium term planning for council finances which will clearly be dependent upon the long awaited Green paper on social care.