William Eichler 11 February 2019

Spending Review ‘make or break’ for cash-strapped councils

Local government leaders have warned the Chancellor that the upcoming Spending Review will ‘make or break’ over-stretched council services.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has revealed that Philip Hammond will need to find an extra £5bn by 2023-24 to spare further cuts to public services.

Drawing on the Treasury’s provisional plans in the Autumn 2018 budget, the think tank estimated that departments, excluding health, defence and aid, face more cuts under the Government’s spending plans.

This will be on top of the £40bn they have endured since 2010.

The scale of the cuts to come would be much smaller than those already implemented, with cuts for unprotected departments averaging 0.4% per year going forwards compared to 3% a year over the period since 2010.

Ben Zaranko, a research economist at the IFS, said the think tank’s findings ‘suggest yet more years of austerity for many public services – albeit at a much slower pace than the last nine years.’

In response to the IFS report, Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said that local government in England faces an overall funding gap of £8bn by 2025.

‘The Spending Review will therefore be make or break for vital local services and securing the financial sustainability of councils must be the top priority,’ he warned.

‘If the Government fails to adequately fund local government in the Spending Review then there is a real risk to the future financial viability of some services and councils,’ Cllr Watts continued.

‘Councils were at the front of the queue when austerity started so local services should be at the front of the queue if it is coming to an end.

‘Fully funding councils is the only way to ensure they can continue to provide all of the valued local services which make such a positive difference to people’s lives.

‘It will also save money for the taxpayer and others part of the public sector, such as the NHS.’

Image: Sovastock / Shutterstock.com.

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