Local government: Do more, with (much) less
In a skilful piece of political manoeuvring George Osborne has passed a large part of the CSR buck to local government.
Underpinning the sugar-coated language about ‘localising power and funding’, the Chancellor announced a 26% cut in central government funding for local councils – with a cut in capital funding to councils of around 45%.
On top of the headline figures, the CSR also flagged:
- A 13% real terms reduction in ‘fires resource expenditure’ (thats fire-fighters and fire fighting equipment to you and me)
- A 20% reduction in bus subsidies and a 28% cut in local government resource grants
- The end of programmes such as the Working Neighbourhoods Fund (…a concerted drive to get people off welfare and into work) and Growth Area Funding (…financial support to major infrastructure investments)
And in a classic ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ move, DCLG will have to contribute nearly £900m to pay for the Regional Growth Fund.
To sit alongside these swingeing cuts in resources, local councils will be given increased ‘flexibility’ with the government committed to removing ‘ring-fencing’ of all but a few revenue grants. What this means for the ‘£2bn of additional funding’ the government has allocated to support social care is unclear, but it clearly raises the possibility it’ll be absorbed to plug the gaping holes in local authority budgets.
Whats clear is that a large part of the negative impact of the government’s cuts will be felt at a local level – and it will be local councillors who are placed in the invidious position of delivering the Chancellor’s cuts. Bad news for our communities – and bad news as well for the 4000 or so Liberal Democrat Councillors across England, Wales & Scotland, tasked with driving these cuts through. Next year’s local government elections are not too far away…