This week saw an unusual alliance. 150 Council leaders – of all political parties – joined together to call for adequate funding in the 2015/16 spending round. image_gallery

As the next spending round is decided by Osborne and Pickles, this was a plea – from all sides of the political divide. It’s a unity which is evidence of the gravity of the crisis facing local government under this Tory/LibDem Coalition.

The letter was organised by the Local Government Association. In it, Leeds leader, Councillor Wakefield, and the other Council leaders made clear the impact on services of further cuts from central government.

The letter showed that local authorities have suffered funding cuts of 33%, compared to the average reduction of Whitehall Departments of 12%. Whilst many authorities, including Leeds, have tried to protect vulnerable people wherever possible, the size of any further savings could endanger their abilities to protect important local services.

The letter called for that localism which is so much talked about and so little practiced by this government.
Budgets could be devolved to local authorities in order to design services for local people.
This would make sense, because it is at local level that there is real understanding of local need. But it makes financial sense, too. Research has indicated that this could lead to significant savings – local authorities will be able to work with other public agencies to save money whilst improving services.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council said: 
“Councils have borne the brunt of the savings imposed by Central Government. Nationally, we have taken £3.1 billion from the annual paybill.
“Between 2011 and 2013 Leeds City Council has saved £145 million. We also have to make savings of nearly £55 million in 2013/14. We have been committed to ensuring the impact of these savings do not fall on the most vulnerable. We are introducing schemes to provide real help to people experiencing poverty whilst simultaneously trying to foster economic growth.
“It will be a significant challenge to protect even the most important services if George Osborne and Eric Pickles decide to force more savings on local authorities. ”

So next time you’re tempted to criticise the Council’s desperate attempts to save money – remember this.
Labour, Tory and LibDem council leaders can’t all be wrong.
There is a crisis developing in local government.
And it’s a crisis of this Coalition’s making.

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