William Eichler 03 December 2019

Party commitments on council funding ‘starkly’ different, think tank says

The money allocated to local government in the Conservative manifesto would not be enough to meet rising costs and demands over the next parliament, think tank says.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies have analysed what the manifestos of the main political parties – Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats – mean for local authority funding.

They concluded that Tory funding commitments would not cover the increasing costs and demands expected at the local level, even if council tax were increased by 4% a year.

A study of English local government funding from the IFS last month found that budgeted revenues to cover day-to-day spending in 2019–20 will be approximately 18% lower in real-terms than in 2009–10. This equates to cuts of 24% per resident once population growth is taken into consideration.

The study also found that these cuts have varied ‘significantly’ across the country.

Councils’ spending on local services has fallen around 31% in the most deprived areas, according to the IFS, compared to 16% in the least deprived areas.

Labour has allocated ‘more than enough’ money to meet rising costs and demands, according to the IFS’ associate director and author of the analysis, David Phillips, allowing increases in service provision and quality.

However, Labour’s funding commitments would not restore local government funding to 2010 levels.

The Liberal Democrats have allocated enough money to meet rising costs and demands if council tax is increased by 2% a year. This would, however, require some of the funding earmarked for bus services, youth services or homelessness to be used to meet these pressures.

‘Taken together, the differences between what the parties propose for local government funding are stark. This reflects manifestos that more generally set out vastly different futures for the country,’ concluded Mr Phillips.

‘But all three main parties have unfunded commitments on adult social care spending – suggesting this will be an important and potentially problematic issue whoever forms the next Government.’

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