Laura Sharman 12 November 2020

County councils warn of insolvency risk without frontline cuts

Only a fifth of England's largest councils are confident they can deliver a balanced budget next year without dramatic reduction to services, a new survey has revealed.

The research by the County Councils Network (CCN) warns that confidence drops even further in 2022/23, with just one local authority confident of setting a balanced budget that year.

The councils warned there is limited scope to reduce non-care services such as libraries, bus routes, and school transport, meaning reductions are likely to fall on social care services.

Over half (56%) are planning to reduce access to care packages, 27% will have to cut services for children in council care, and a third are planning reductions to early years and youth services.

Just one council said they would be able to invest in adult social care over the next two years if extra funding was not made available.

Cllr David Williams, chairman of the CCN, said: 'Councils have pulled out all the stops throughout this pandemic to protect residents, maintain vital services and support the economic recovery. To ensure that they can continue to do whatever it takes over the winter to combat Coronavirus and to prevent severe reductions to services next year, they need a significant increase in funding for 2021/22, alongside an income guarantee to protect against losses in council tax.'

Cllr Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, added: 'We have taken tough decisions since 2010 to put our council on a sustainable footing, but Coronavirus has dramatically changed the situation and we are now facing severe funding shortfalls and uncertainty next year. The big difference from last year is the drop in council tax income and this is why an "income guarantee" for councils can stave off major service reductions.'

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