William Eichler 23 November 2023

Autumn Statement: Councils remain ‘chronically underfunded’

Autumn Statement: Councils remain ‘chronically underfunded’  image
Image: photocosmos1 / Shutterstock.com.

More support for private renters, devolution and local planning departments is welcome but cash-strapped councils remain ‘chronically underfunded’, council chiefs say in response to the Autumn Statement.

Cllr Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates and allow councils to recover planning costs.

He also welcomed the new devolution deals announced by Mr Hunt, noting this should ‘signal a genuine “local first” approach to policy making across Whitehall.

However, Cllr Davies warned the lack of additional funding in yesterday’s announcement, the prospect of further cuts, and the rise in the National Living Wage risks councils' ability to meet ‘spiralling demand’.

‘Supporting businesses and easing the cost of living for households is important, but not if our public services continue to be chronically underfunded and unable to be there to support people when they need them,’ he said.

He warned that the pressures on adult social care, homelessness, and children’s services continue to increase, putting an unsustainable strain on local finances.

‘Councils have worked hard to find efficiencies and reduce costs, but the easy savings have long since gone. It is wrong that our residents now face further cuts to services as well as the prospect of council tax rises next year, with councils having the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding.’

Cllr Elizabeth Dennis, the District Council Network’s (DCN) finance spokesperson, added: ‘The measures proposed to help tackle homelessness pressures announced by the Chancellor today will make some difference to hard-pressed councils. But it needs to be set against rapidly rising demand for council services and the impact of inflation which, although now lower, continues to whittle away our budgets.

Cllr Tim Oliver, CCN chairman and leader of Surrey County Council, said: 'A failure to address these severe pressures in today’s Autumn Statement will be deeply disappointing for county local authorities. This mounting tide of costs is threatening the financial sustainability of high performing councils across the country, with many now likely to have to make cuts and reductions to local services in order to balance their budget. For some, even this might not be enough such is the scale of the challenge.'

For more on the Autumn Statement check out the following:

Autumn Statement: Hunt devolves but councils face new costs

Autumn Statement: Planning system to prioritise EV charging

Autumn Statement: Hunt announces surprise LGPS plan

Autumn Statement: Unprotected departments face further cuts

Autumn Statement: Level 4 devolution unveiled

Autumn Statement: Living Wage hike places council budgets under pressure

Autumn Statement: Business rates measures to be fully funded

Autumn Statement: Councils to be able to recover planning costs

Autumn Statement: Housing benefits unfrozen

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