‘Increasingly critical’ council savings dependent on leadership

The Accounts Commission has said that finding savings has become ‘increasingly critical’ for local authorities who are facing continuous reductions in funding.

The local authority watchdog says that councils need to clearly set out the impact budget reductions are having so they can plan for the future, warning that, without service redesign or policy changes, councils could be spending nearly 80 per cent of their budgets on education and social work alone by 2025.

The commission’s annual report found that some councils have maintained or improved their performance in a number of areas despite budget reductions, but there is wider evidence that budget cuts are having a negative impact, with public satisfaction falling in areas such as refuse collection, street cleaning and libraries.

Furthermore, the Accounts Commission has warned that, in terms of adult social care, services are failing to match demand, with elderly residents facing long waits for an assessment of their needs and a further wait to receive their care package.

Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: "Councils are facing the major challenge of reducing costs, maintaining services for an ageing population and putting significant policy and legislative change into practice - all at a time of increasing uncertainty.

"They have done a lot to manage the impact of budget reductions, but with forecast funding gaps higher than current levels of reserves for some councils the delivery of savings is now increasingly critical. Decisive leadership, innovative thinking around service delivery, and robust planning based on community engagement is now more important than ever to ensure council services stay sustainable."

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