Spending Review must prevent local service cutbacks

The Local Government Association has said that securing the immediate sustainability of local services must be the top priority for the Spending Review to avoid councils having to find ‘disastrous’ savings next year.

Councils in England face a funding gap of £4 billion in 2021/22 just to maintain services at current levels. The LGA, which represents councils across England, is urging the Chancellor to provide local government with an extra £8.7 billion in the Spending Review so councils can not only plug this gap but meet demand pressures and improve services next year.

Public finances are under huge strain but councils insist investment in local services is vital to our national economic and social recovery. The government has provided additional funding to help councils manage the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their finances – which has been invaluable.

But ahead of the Chancellor’s one-year Spending Review tomorrow, the LGA said it would be a huge mistake for government to think it will be enough to ensure councils get through this immediate crisis unscathed.

James Jamieson, chairman of the LGA, said: “This year has been incredibly hard for our nation. This virus has not only tragically claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people but the true impact of the pandemic on wider health and mental wellbeing has yet to become clear. It has devastated our economy and exacerbated long-standing inequalities. Positive news about Covid-19 vaccines has provided a sense of renewed optimism about the future and the prospect of our normal way of life returning next year.

“As the focus shifts towards how we build back better, it would be disastrous if councils are forced to find further major savings to already stretched budgets next year and are choked off from being able to act locally to restore local economies and rebuild communities as a result. Now is not the time for the services our communities will turn to for help to have to be drastically scaled back or lost altogether.”