Financial fear crisis for council chiefs

According to a new report, 56 per cent of local authority chief executives and leaders anticipating that some authorities will face a financial crisis inside the next 12 months.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual ‘Local State We’re In’ survey revealed that only 13 per cent of chief executives felt they could maintain delivery of essential services until the end of this Parliament under the burden of austerity.

Additionally, despite the survey finding that 64 per cent of chief executives were confident of making necessary financial savings over the next 12 months without seriously impacting the quality of service delivery, only 13 per cent believed they could maintain service delivery in the face of expected financial constraints over the next five years.

Chris Buttress, PwC partner and local government leader, said: “There is real shift in emphasis this year – a focus away from delivering ‘cuts’ towards making interventions that underpin regional economic ‘growth’ and public sector reform. However, leaders and chief executives also recognise the magnitude of the financial struggle and the necessity to find solutions, as the shift continues from grant reliance to self-sufficiency.

“Consequently, as we look towards 2020, we are expecting to see some fundamental changes in the way local public services are delivered. As that journey continues, councils need to ensure that they have the capacity and capability to match their ambition in order to deliver on new opportunities while managing new risks.”

The report also detailed a wane in optimism concerning devolution progress. The percentage of chief executives and council leaders feeling confident that local government will have more powers and responsibilities by 2020 has dropped from 33 per cent to 20 per cent in a year.