Laura Sharman 18 February 2016

Local government finance in a ‘mess’ warns survey

Local government finance in a ‘mess’ warns survey

Nearly nine in ten councils will have to increase council tax and start charging for services in a bid to balance the books, according to the results of a new survey.

The 2016 State of Local Government Finance survey, conducted by our sister title The MJ in partnership with the LGiU, also found that 82% of councils will be forced to use reserves to make ends meet.

While nearly all councils that are eligible are planning on implementing the 2% social care precept, three-quarters of those surveyed said the extra money will not be enough to close the funding gap in adult social care.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: ‘Local government finance is a mess. Our research shows that right now councils are cobbling together their finances by using reserves and increasing charging wherever they can.

‘The system we have now is one which no one would design. Central government and local authorities both want to see a sustainable independent funding model. But until we answer fundamental questions about how to make this work, devolution will be a process rather than a revolution.’

The research also found that while six out of ten councils believe they can be financially self-sufficient by 2020, this will only happen if local government is given more powers over charging, trading and raising local taxes.

Heather Jameson, editor of The MJ, added: ‘Town halls want to be self-financing, but they need the tools to do so – and they need to be free of Whitehall diktat. Local government needs to be free to charge and trade and control its own income.

‘The Government talks a good game when it comes to devolution, but let’s see them put their money where their mouth is and sort out local government finances.’

For a full analysis of the results click here (£).

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