Thomas Bridge 27 March 2015

Poll indicates widespread concern among council leaders over future services

Only one in 10 council chiefs are confident their local authority can protect frontline services in the face of ongoing austerity, a poll reveals.

A survey of over 100 chief executives and local authority leaders by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found 80% believe some town halls will no longer be able to afford delivering essential services in the next five years.

Figures suggest local authority prospects vary dramatically over the near and distant future, with the proportion of respondents confident in their ability to manage savings in the short term reaching 70% but falling to just one in 10 in the longer term.

Partnership working between councils is also thought to be rising up the agenda, with 47% of respondents believing their town hall will be included in a combined authority in five year’s time.

However the findings also indicated concerns about the ultimate outcomes of decentralisation, with only a fifth of leaders and chiefs agreeing their council would have significantly more powers by 2020.

PwC partner and local government leader, Chris Buttress, said it was clear councils are now ‘considering more radical options – from rethinking relationships with customers and communities and better use of digital technologies, to deeper collaboration with partners’.

‘Local authorities have largely responded well to the budget gap of the last four years. They are now anticipating having to do the same again, with less and less certainty of how to achieve this.

‘We have no doubt that the future business model for public services will change significantly in the next four years - and those leading the sector in localities will be the ones who will deliver this new model – changes won’t all necessarily be centrally driven.’

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