Another Financial Blow to Councils

October 29, 2020 1:00 PM
By Cllr Ian Marks, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Finance on Warrington Borough Council

The Treasury has announced plans to conduct a one-year spending review of council funding in November instead of a multi-year review as planned. The NHS and schools will get a multi-year review but not local government.

wp-content/uploads/imarks.jpgIn the past Government used to have single year funding settlements and then they did the right thing and announced settlements covering several years ahead. Single year funding settlements make it very difficult for Councils such as ours to plan how best to provide the local services our communities rely on. Public health, adult social care, children's services, homelessness support, and help for those in financial hardship, have proved so vital during the pandemic.

The cross-party Local Government Association is clear that this is a missed opportunity for Government. Only with certainty over funding, can councils play a leading role in addressing the stark inequalities COVID has exposed, support a green recovery, tackle skills gaps and rebuild the economy so it benefits everyone.

A recent survey of Council Chief Executives has found that a quarter of local authorities expect to issue a Section 114 notice by the end of 2021/22. This, like a bankruptcy, means that they are not allowed by law to authorise any new expenditure except spending on safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services. This shows the serious state of local government finances and I sincerely hope that Warrington is not forced to go down this route. National government needs to understand the value of local government and establish a more equitable relationship between the two tiers.