“England’s county councils are to outline another wave of cuts, with almost £1bn needed in reductions to balance the books next February.
Startling analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) warned that local authorities will set out £685m in savings and cuts next February; alongside an additional £233m of ‘unplanned’ frontline service cuts, unless the government provides these councils with new funding next year.
One of the root causes behind the major savings drives include significant overspends in areas such as children’s services: the CCN noted that county authorities have overspent £264m on the sector in the face of “unprecedented demand” for the services.
County authorities around the country are facing similar dire straits when it comes to financial difficulties: last week Somerset County Council approved major cuts worth £13m to services, and last month said they will need to cut more than 100 jobs to make the necessary savings to meet their budget.
The CCN noted that under soaring demand for care services, more resources will need to be diverted to compensate; extra charges could therefore be introduced, as well as increasing reductions to non-social care expenditure such as roads, libraries, economic growth services, and bus routes.
Leader of Leicestershire County Council and finance spokesman for the CCN Nick Rushton said: “County councils across the country have no choice but find a further £1bn of savings next year. Choices will be limited and reductions to front line services inevitable: with valued services such as pothole and highway repairs, children’s centres, libraries and increased charges for residents all on the agenda.
“There is not enough money today to run vital services. Next year there is even less from the drop in government funding, expiry of the social care grant and the ending of the social care precept for some councils. We will have to once again ask our residents to pay, but we are at the point where council tax rises alone are not going to protect services.
Cllr Rushton added unless the government intervenes and provides new funding, councils will have “no choice” but to outline the cuts in budgets next February. With councils using at least £185m of reserves this year, their ability to draw down the same levels next year to offset cuts is limited.
Chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and the CCN will be giving their thoughts on the local government funding crisis in PSE’s upcoming magazine: hitting desks 8 October.”
Source: County Councils Network