Owl says: But this was always the ambition of Conservatives who much prefer “the big society” (charities and volunteers providing services) and “the small state” (councils providing minimum services). We should not be surprised at that – it is what their voters vote for. But what we SHOULD be surprised at is that it is taking MORE of our money to achieve this, not less.
Labour councils are most pessimistic (83% believe this vill happen within 5 years), as they should be, as they are generally in poorer areas and/or the North where reliance on business rates (which will be the main source of council revenue with council tax) will be tricky, particularly in a post-Brexit economy. But Tory councils, even those in business rate-rich areas are also pessimistic (63%).
A sorry state of affairs to look forward to if this government remains in power: higher taxes, lower (rock bottom) services.
“Two-thirds of councils believe they will only be able to deliver minimum services required by law within five years.
The results of a survey by the New Local Government Network (NLGN) comes as Northamptonshire County Council voted through an action plan to cut services to the bone in order to tackle a likely budget deficit for this year of up to £60m–£70m.
NLGN’s second Leadership Index survey found that councils with social care responsibilities are the most pessimistic, with 88% indicating they will be unable to deliver discretionary services by 2023.
Adam Lent, director of the NLGN, said: “This should be a sober wake-up call for a government that is overseeing a country with ever deepening social divisions and growing inequality.
“Councils are best placed to tackle these problems, and should be receiving greater investment to do this, not seeing their services stripped to the bare minimum.”
Lent said areas stripped of libraries, park maintenance, pothole repairs and advice to residents on care, or housing, were likely to see a narrowing of opportunity for residents.
The survey was carried out from 7th June to 2nd July, with 191 council leaders, chief executives and mayors replying.
Labour-run councils are the most pessimistic with 83% predicting that discretionary services will disappear by 2023, compared to 63% of Conservative-run authorities.
Northamptonshire, on Thursday afternoon, approved an action plan that agreed “spending priorities”. These include safeguarding vulnerable children and adults. Also in the plan is a review of contracts with third party suppliers. Around 70% of Northamptonshire’s services are delivered through external suppliers.
Paul Carter, County Councils Network chairman and leader of Kent County Council, said: “It is clear that unless government finds a long-term solution to council funding and a fairer distribution of resources between authorities, other well-managed county councils could find themselves unable to balance the books.
“The new secretary of state for local government recognises the situation we face, but the Treasury needs to better understand the pressures we are under and support counties with short-term resources for the next financial year, ahead of a longer-term deal in the spending review.”
Northamptonshire will also review its external contracts, including Private Finance Initiative Schemes, as well as its capital programme.
Before the meeting, Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South, tweeted that the county council’s “problems are national as well as local”. He revealed he has written to communities secretary James Brokenshire and health secretary Matt Hancock to request a meeting about the authority’s position.
Pressure on the government to provide further assistance to Northamptonshire also came from Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, who tweeted that her organisation was “writing to ministers asking for them to also ensure no vulnerable children are put at risk by cuts to services”.
It also emerged this week that East Sussex County Council last month agreed plans to reduce services to the bare minimum required by law.
Becky Shaw, chief executive, said: “Careful planning, efficiency savings, innovation, hard work and commitment to our four key priorities have enabled us to make the best use of our dwindling resources, but the pressure created by local residents’ needs cannot be met by income raised locally.
“Having transformed our services and saved £129m since 2010, we need to be realistic about what further budget cuts will mean for the residents, communities and businesses of East Sussex.
“Our core offer paints an honest picture of the minimum that we realistically need to provide in the future and we want to use this as the basis for discussion with the government, partner organisations and residents in East Sussex.”
The Times reported this week that the chancellor, Philip Hammond, has told non-protected departments, including the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to earmark further cuts before next year’s spending review.
Some departments believe that these budgets could be cut by as much as 5%, according to the report.”