Economy and Infrastructure

05.07.18

Brokenshire refuses to promise lobbying Treasury for council cash

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has failed to make firm commitments to lobby the chancellor for more money in the upcoming Spending Review – despite loud warnings that some councils are on the brink of financial collapse and that the bank of local government as a whole is running on empty.

Speaking at the LGA Conference this week, Brokenshire dodged all questions from the audience regarding the sector’s incredibly tight purse.

His keynote came on the same day as a report from the LGA which showed councils face a funding gap of almost £8bn by 2025, with this money needed just to keep services afloat – not even accounting for growing demand or the need to expand and innovate.

He was honest about the challenges councils face, openly acknowledging that there are growing pressures on services and “no easy answers to these issues.” But the secretary of state did not commit to change this through a cash injection, ideally by lobbying the chancellor for more money in the Spending Review.

“I can say to you that I will listen and respond to what you’re telling me. And work with you to really understanding the difficulties as well as the opportunities. We won’t always agree, and I will provide challenge where needed to champion high standards and quality services. But you can be confident that I’ll always stand up for you and local government’s interests,” he told the audience.

Brokenshire admitted that “money has been extremely tight” and that councils have already “gone the extra mile” to delivery efficiencies. But he considered that central government had already responded to these pressures, including through this year’s local government finance settlement, the extension of business rates retention pilots, and the social care green paper delayed until this autumn.

“We’re also keen to work with you on a whole new approach to distributing funding through the review of relative needs and resources. Everyone agrees that the current formula needs fixing. And I want to see a robust, straightforward approach, where the link between local circumstances and resources allocated is clear,” he continued.

“I know that the final outcome won’t necessarily please everyone. But our overriding priority must be to make the best use of resources available.”

Brokenshire, whose father escaped living in “near poverty” by taking up a career in his council and ultimately went on to lead a London borough, said his passion for local government isn’t just professional, but “deeply personal.” He stressed that the sector is an “incredible force for good, not a distant, faceless bureaucracy” and recognised its role as “the bedrock of democracy.”

But his calls for a “renewal and renaissance in local government” did not go down well with the audience, with one delegate saying that he was “astonished” at Brokenshire’s lack of understanding about existing issues and that a more honest debate is needed about how to fund such a ‘renaissance.’

When pressed further about funding, with delegates asking for a firm commitment to knock on the Treasury’s door, he said: “I recognise the pressures that local government deals with: the need for that long-term arrangement for social care, which we will address in the green paper, and also what the Spending Review may be. And that’s why I’m listening carefully and intently to the pressures that I know many of you are experiencing and why I will champion the best interests of local government.”

At last year’s LGA Conference, delegates argued that former communities secretary Sajid Javid’s speech had gone down “like a bucket of cold sick” following claims that councils would lose public trust after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Top image: Victoria Jones, PA Wire

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Northumberland council hit with legal claim after firm racks up £13m delayed project bill

16/07/2018Northumberland council hit with legal claim after firm racks up £13m delayed project bill

Northumberland County Council’s decision to scrap new housing proposals may have cost a developer more than £13m in planning permissi... more >
Controversial bridge tolls will not be repaid by Merseyside council despite deemed 'illegal'

16/07/2018Controversial bridge tolls will not be repaid by Merseyside council despite deemed 'illegal'

Controversial payments levied on users of a Merseyside bridge will not be repaid by its council in spite of a legal ruling deeming the fees to be... more >
New chief executive set to replace disgraced boss at Liverpool City Council

16/07/2018New chief executive set to replace disgraced boss at Liverpool City Council

Liverpool City Council is planning to announce its new chief executive to replace recently-resigned CEO Ged Fitzgerald. According to reports... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
Northumberland council hit with legal claim after firm racks up £13m delayed project bill

16/07/2018Northumberland council hit with legal claim after firm racks up £13m delayed project bill

Northumberland County Council’s decision to scrap new housing proposals may have cost a developer more than £13m in planning permission costs. Newcastle-based property developer ... more >
Controversial bridge tolls will not be repaid by Merseyside council despite deemed 'illegal'

16/07/2018Controversial bridge tolls will not be repaid by Merseyside council despite deemed 'illegal'

Controversial payments levied on users of a Merseyside bridge will not be repaid by its council in spite of a legal ruling deeming the fees to be illegal. Passengers using the Mersey Gateway... more >

the raven's daily blog

How councils can better understand citizen movement in urban areas

02/07/2018How councils can better understand citizen movement in urban areas

Local authorities are being urged to consider the benefits of using anonymised data to improve the way they shape and deliver public services, as well as to plan ahead by predicting how the urban environment will change in the future. By taking advantage of GDPR-compliant and census-level big data produced by Vodafone’s 3G and 4G ne... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Accountability in government: what next?

02/07/2018Accountability in government: what next?

Benoit Guerin, senior researcher at the Institute for Government (IfG), explains why accountability in government needs improving and sets out wh... more >
Potholes: The scourge of the roads

02/07/2018Potholes: The scourge of the roads

Potholes are a scourge on our roads and can have much farther-reaching consequences than one might think. Re-routing just a small amount of exist... more >
Can data save the future of children?

02/07/2018Can data save the future of children?

Ingrid Koehler, service innovation lead at the LGiU, takes a look at the untapped potential for a digital, data-led transformation of children&rs... more >
Stepping up to GovTech

02/07/2018Stepping up to GovTech

Malcolm Harbour CBE, chair of the LGA working group on innovation in public procurement, gives us an update on the progress of the GovTech Cataly... more >

interviews

Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >
GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

03/04/2018GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

SPONSORED INTERVIEW PSE’s Josh Mines chats to Martin de Martini, CIO of Y Soft, about what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)... more >
Keeping London safe

05/03/2018Keeping London safe

Theo Blackwell, London’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO), speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the role he plays in ensuring the... more >
BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >

public sector focus

View all News