Latest Public Sector News

01.02.16

Settlement delivers inadequate level of protection for counties

Source: PSE Feb/Mar 16

Cllr David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, outlines a four-point plan to alleviate the pressures faced by shire counties following the recent financial settlement.

The recent very vocal public reaction to the funding settlement offered by the government to county councils should have left no-one in any doubt of the degree of unhappiness in and around the shires, nor of the pressures that shire counties are under. 

In Essex, we were quick to express our disappointment to ministers who, to their credit, appear to have been in listening mode since. 

Now we are in period of relative calm while, we hope, the number crunchers at DCLG and their political masters come up with a solution that recognises the challenges that counties – with their ageing populations – face. [Editor’s note: This piece was written shortly before the government issued the final settlement, which came out on 9 February. More on that on page 4 and at the PSE website.

Stark predicament 

It’s pretty easy to illustrate the stark nature of our predicament. 

Even with the additional freedom to levy 2% on council tax for social care, the amount county councils would raise in extra tax would be less than half (£854m) of what had just been cut.

Counties are willing to, and indeed have, played their part in reducing the national deficit, seeking efficiencies and further savings. We have proven during the last Parliament that we can meet all the challenges of funding reductions at a time of rising demand, alongside making efficiencies, sharing services and increasing commercialism. And all the while, balancing our budgets and continuing to safeguard key services. 

The other side is our requirement for greater protection for all upper tier councils, so that we can continue to provide adult social care and children’s services. Council tax flexibility through the precept and additional funding through the Better Care Fund (BCF) can go some way to addressing our concerns. However, the extra funding for social care through these reforms still remains inadequate to meet the existing funding gap for social care over the next two years. 

Four-point plan 

For counties, the situation has been compounded by the current proposals on the distribution of grants and inadequate formulae used to distribute the BCF. Overall, the proposals mean counties have not been offered an adequate level of protection, particularly over the next two years. 

In a recent letter to the prime minister, I set out a four-point plan, which would help ameliorate matters considerably. Our ask was: 

  1. Bring the BCF forward by one year, so helping what will be an incredibly difficult year in 2017-18, and redistributing that on a fair basis.
  2. Revisit the grant distribution for 2017-18 on the basis of need, more fairly recognising the real pressures placed on social care authorities.
  3. Remove the council tax freeze grant element from the revenue support grant, and give it to us on the basis we were promised – as a permanent funding source.
  4. Give councils more flexibility and freedom to locally manage council tax regimes, allowing for reviews of areas such as single person discounts. 

The government didn’t give us much for Christmas, but we can hope that in the spirit of St Valentine’s Day, they may show us a little more love.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

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 open more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed a... more >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has... more >

the raven's daily blog

Re-energising citizen engagement

10/12/2018Re-energising citizen engagement

Could smart cities and social media be the perfect match? Simon Dennis, director of artificial intelligence and analytics innovation at SAS UK, reports.  Politi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

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 feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >