We rather wish we did not have to constantly post on Local Government Funding. It’s the sort of area where, these days, news is usually bad news. But, as we’ve said before, Local Government funding matters to every single one of us. It determines what the Council can and can’t do for us. And, once again, the news is bleak.
It has been revealed this week that Yorkshire councils may have to find further savings of up to £150m as a result of unforeseen Government funding cuts.
Local authorities in the region were already expecting to have to find £300m of savings after Chancellor George Osborne set out his spending plans for the 2015-16 financial year in June.
But details that have now emerged of the way Whitehall-level cuts will feed through to local authorities have left councils in Yorkshire fearing that figure could end up being closer to £450m.
The Chancellor’s spending review included proposals to cut the amount going to councils by 10 per cent. But calculations by the Local Government Association suggest that for many authorities the fall could actually be more like 15 per cent.
Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said:
“It is no exaggeration to say that the latest revelations about local authority funding will signal the end of many public services. I am astounded at the audacity of the Government in publically announcing 10% real term cuts for local government, fully in the knowledge that the reduction would actually be 15%.
In 2015-16 that will be an additional cut of £20m for Leeds on top of the £26m we were already aware of. By that time we will already have saved over £200m. In the face of yet more cuts our ability to protect vital public services and to avoid compulsory redundancies is becoming more restricted than ever.
We are already working differently, becoming a smaller organisation, transforming services and, in some cases, stopping services altogether. Despite the adversity we face and the increasing demand for services such as adult social care, we continue to drive economic growth, deliver jobs, encourage enterprise and lead major regeneration projects.
Government should know that local councils are vital to the fabric of all our communities – protecting our elderly, helping ensure children get a good start in life, delivering cleaner and greener environments. In Leeds it is the council dealing with the devastating frontline impact of Government welfare changes, tackling poverty and working to reduce health inequalities.”
Fears of higher than expected cuts stem from new detail released by the Government on how money will be allocated in future.
The Government has always insisted that while the amount going to councils in 2015-16 will be cut by 10 per cent, the impact will actually be close to two per cent when incomes available to local authorities are taken into account.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said suggestions of further budget reductions were “disingenuous”. A spokeswoman said: “In the recent spending round the coalition Government set out a saving of 2.3 per cent for 2015-16 in overall local government spending, including funding from central government, business rates and council tax income.”
But again it is the Coalition Government which is being disingenuous. The new detail suggests £1bn that councils were expecting to receive in their main Government grant will be diverted into other funding pots which are not guaranteed to benefit all local authorities and which may involve extra costs.
So the same old story grinds on – the Coalition is diverting money and re-allocating it in such a way that only some councils benefit, while others lose out twice over. No prizes for guessing who are likely to be the losers.
If the cuts imposed on Yorkshire councils do amount to nearly £450m, that would take the total taken from their budgets between 2010 and 2016 to more than £1.1bn.
As Councillor Wakefield makes clear, cuts on this scale spell the end of Local Government as we know it.
“Ministers misleading the public about the scale of the cuts in 2014-15 and 2015-16, means services people rely upon are now threatened by closure.”
We are all paying the price for this Government’s failures.