London borough budgets drop a fifth over seven years

New analysis by Centre for London has shown that London borough budgets have fallen a fifth over the last seven years, with spending on planning, transport and culture hit hardest.

Published in The London Intelligence, the analysis shows that London’s authorities saw a 19 per cent fall in their budgeted expenditure (per head) between 2010/11 and 2017/18, with the largest falls occurring in Newham (-33 per cent), followed by Westminster and Camden (both -29 per cent).

The data also revealed that the gap between Labour and Conservative-run councils has closed in recent years as Labour councils have seen larger proportional drops in service budgets with the gap in average per capita spending between boroughs run by the two main parties moving from £273 in 2010, to £130 in 2015, and £92 in 2017. However, Labour councils, on average, still spend more per head.

Additionally, between 2010/11 to 2017/18: planning and development budgets have been cut by 55 per cent; cultural activities, such as recreation and sport, open spaces, tourism and libraries have seen budgets reduced by 41 per cent; and highways and transport have seen budgets reduced by 38 per cent.

Richard Brown, research director at Centre for London, said: “Newly elected London councillors are this week arriving at town halls that have been on the front line of austerity. London boroughs, like other metropolitan authorities, have been hard hit by spending cuts, with the result that delivering on manifesto promises – especially on increasing the supply of affordable housing – may be challenging.

“Until now, councils have shown ingenuity in finding efficiencies and protecting statutory services, but they are running out of road. Continuing austerity is likely to force some harsh choices in the years to come. Local authorities should put party politics aside, and collectively lobby for a new funding settlement, with fiscal devolution and local taxation reform, to put London services on a sustainable footing.”