William Eichler 08 March 2018

Councils at financial breaking point, watchdog warns

The financial health of local authorities is ‘getting worse’ due to central Government cuts, auditors say.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found councils are ‘struggling to juggle’ higher demands and cost pressures against funding cuts of nearly 50% since 2010-11.

The report, published today, warns that councils are relying on their savings to fund services and are also overspending on services - a situation it describes as ‘not financially sustainable’.

The NAO cited the increase in demand for social care as one area that was putting pressure on over-stretched councils, forcing them to divert funds from other areas.

The report found that spending on social care has decreased by 3% since 2010 - despite the increase in demand.

However, this is a small fall compared to the 32.6% reduction in spending on all other service areas.

According to the NAO’s findings, there have been reductions of 52.8% on planning and development; 45.6% on housing services; 37.1% on highways and transport; and 34.9% on cultural and related services.

The report also records how these cuts have impacted on frontline services.

Since 2010-11, 33.7% fewer households have their waste collected at least weekly, the number of bus miles subsidised by local authorities outside London has fallen by 48.4%, and the number of libraries has reduced by 10.3%.

‘Current funding for local authorities is characterised by one off and short-term fixes, many of which come with centrally driven conditions,’ said NAO head Amyas Morse.

‘This restricts the capacity of local authorities and yet the weight of responsibility to respond to increased demand and maintain services remains very much on their shoulders.

‘The Government risks sleep walking into a centralised local authority financial system where the scope for local discretion is being slowly eroded.’

Responding to the report, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) Lord Porter said: ‘This stark report sets out the significant funding challenges facing all councils and the effect years of unprecedented funding reductions have had on the local services our communities rely on and other parts of the public sector.

‘It is yet further compelling evidence as to why the Government must urgently secure the financial sustainability of local government and the 1,300 different statutory duties and responsibilities councils provide.’

‘As the NAO rightly recognises, councils are having to divert ever-dwindling resources from other local services, including filling potholes, maintaining our parks and green spaces and running children’s centres, leisure centres and libraries, to try and plug growing funding gaps in adult social care and children’s services,’ he continued.

‘At the same time, they are struggling with cost pressures arising from government policies, such as paying for the National Living Wage and Apprenticeship Levy.

‘Leaving councils to pick up the bill for unfunded government policies at the same time as managing spending reduction and such growing demand for services is unacceptable.’

For more on the NAO report visit The MJ (£).

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Assistant Highways Officer

Lincolnshire County Council
£21,269 - £23,953
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to recruit an Assistant Highways Officer Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Highways Officer

Lincolnshire County Council
£26,466 - £29,174
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to appoint a Highways Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Social Worker - Children in Care

Essex County Council
£32787 - £44826 per annum + + Free On-Site Parking & Benefits Package
Closing Date
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Newly Qualified Social Workers - Children in Care

Essex County Council
£32787 - £44826 per annum + + Free On-Site Parking & Benefits Package
These positions are open to Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW's) and Experienced Social Workers. The starting salary for a NQSW is £29,236 per a England, Essex, Basildon
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Assistant Project Manager

Essex County Council
£31200 - £36763 per annum
Assistant Project ManagerFixed Term, 12 monthsFull Time, 37 hours per weekUp to £36,763 per annumLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.