Local councils at breaking point as further cuts loom

‘Worst yet to come’ for local authorities as council bosses forced to make further £1bn savings

(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Council bosses in England have warned the “worst is yet to come” as further cuts to local authority budgets will put vital frontline services at risk.

The County Councils Network (CCN), representing authorities covering half the country’s population and which The Guardian notes is “Conservative-dominated”, has said councils will be forced to make “unpalatable” cuts to fill a £900 million funding shortfall next year.

Cllr Nicholas Rushton, the CCN’s finance spokesman and the Conservative leader of Leicestershire county council, said county councils are in “a serious and extremely challenging financial position”.

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“The further planned funding cuts and continued escalation of costs outside of our control will make this bad situation even worse. There is not enough money today to run vital services” he said, adding that council tax rises alone would not protect public services.

The government insists councils will get a real term funding increase in 2018-19, but the BBC reports that town hall bosses say local government funding from central government, through the revenue support grant, will have been cut by around 60% by 2020.

Unless the government agrees to provide new funding, “local authorities are likely to need to divert yet more resources to care services - increasing reductions to non-social care expenditure such as roads, libraries, economic growth services, and bus routes” reports The Independent.

The Guardian says “the growing financial pressure on budgets would increase the risk of councils moving to a “core offer”, meaning services would be stripped to the legal minimum”.

Northamptonshire county council, which is technically insolvent, has already set out plans for core-offer cuts to fill a £60 million hole in its finances.

Other councils such as Somerset and Lancashire face similar financial constraints while East Sussex has warned it will go bankrupt within three years if current funding levels continue.

Last winter the government stepped in to provide extra funding for social care in a bid to ward off a revolt of backbench Tory MPs, yet it insists its approach strikes the right balance between relieving pressure on local government and ensuring taxpayers do not face excessive bills.

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