William Eichler 15 July 2019

Next PM has ‘100 days’ to save local government

A think tank has called on the next Prime Minister to announce a one year emergency local government finance settlement during their first 100 days in office.

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched the final report of the Local Finance Taskforce which sets out what they describe as a ‘roadmap for the future sustainability of local finance’.

An LGiU survey published in February found that eight in 10 (80%) councils said they were not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. None said they were ‘very confident’.

Many of these councils warned that they would have to cut community services in 2019 because of a lack of funds.

The LGiU’s new report sets out a plan for developing what the think tank argues is a ‘fair and sustainable’ funding system for local government.

As well as calling on the next PM to make a commitment to a one year emergency funding settlement, the report also urges them to remove the council tax referendum requirement and declare a national strategy for health and social care funding.

‘At the moment, councils have no idea how they will be funded this time next year. They face a financial cliff edge on 31st March 2020 and currently have no ability to budget or plan their services for the year ahead,’ said Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU.

‘Some may soon be forced to take very difficult decisions, based on their worst-case scenario budget estimates – making redundancies, stripping down services, selling valued public assets – that may turn out to be completely unnecessary.

‘Under normal circumstances, this would be a recipe for disaster but under the current Government it appears to be another issue caught up in the Brexit fog.’

‘Our Local Finance Taskforce sets out a roadmap for the future that is sustainable,’ said Dr Carr-West.

‘In it, we demand from Government a local government funding system that is fair, transparent and provides certainty and a settlement that is clear about the role and value of councils, and their relationship with the wider public sector and society.’

‘Local government deserves better and local government deserves more,’ he added.

The report warned many councils were ‘now in a position where they are funding core services through returns on commercial ventures, which many feel uncomfortable about’.

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