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17.11.15

County councils face £2.6bn black hole in finances – CCN

Further reductions in grants, council tax restrictions and inflationary cost and wage pressures mean that county councils face a £2.6bn black hole in their finances, according to Cllr Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN).

In his maiden speech to the CCN Annual Conference, Cllr Carter stated that this funding gap was even before counties add in increasing demand for services and the consequences of the living wage.

Over the past five years counties have delivered “everything that has been asked of them” and delivered extraordinary efficiencies and savings not matched by any other parts of the public sector, he said. “In recent months CCN have done our very best to lobby and help ministers, MPs and civil servants in Westminster better understand the difficult decisions we will potentially have to make over the coming years and get them to realise that importantly our ‘budget tank’ is now running on ‘reserve’ and the engine is close to stalling,” he said.

Cllr Carter, leader of Kent County Council, said he hopes the messages in the CCN’s Spending Review evidence has “hit home”.

“There is a real danger of collapse in social care markets. Reducing our investment in social care enablement and preventative services which reduce hospital admissions and support timely hospital discharge must be avoided,” he said.

Although Cllr Carter welcomed the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill and the recent devolution announcement to Cornwall, he said the government must remember that devolution in counties will be “unique and different”.

Looking at the coming months and years, he stated that reforms must deliver “sensible baseline financial stability” for counties with fairness and equity across the country and within tiers of local government.

He added it is also essential counties engage in “serious discussions” about the responsibilities and functions of local authorities in being offered greater control of business rates, and that government must “free up councils” by not restricting additional business rate levies to help fund infrastructure making them conditional on directly elected mayors.

For the full text of his speech, click here.

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