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29.05.13

‘Widen the ringfence’ around schools and health – LGA

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell has urged the Government to widen the budgetary ringfence around schools and health to incorporate local services that help the elderly stay independent longer and ensure children are ready for school.

“This will ultimately save money by reducing pressure on our hospitals, police and prisons,” he said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government was confirmed yesterday as one of seven departments to have settled its 2015/16 budget cuts with the Treasury.

Sir Merrick noted that the announcement does not relate to local government funding, which is still being negotiated between departments, and added: “The ambiguity around today's announcement highlights why in future local government should be much more directly involved in negotiating the settlement.

“We are urging the Chancellor to ensure local services are adequately funded in 2015/16 and beyond.

“Local government's financial sustainability is on a knife edge in many areas and significant new cuts would pose a real threat to valued local services. The end result would be the further tightening of eligibility criteria for care and support and cuts to services such as road maintenance, leisure facilities and economic regeneration projects. It is inevitable that it would lead to a significant reduction in, and in some cases even loss of, important local services.

“Councils have already taken one of the biggest cuts in the public sector with a 33% reduction to their Government grant. Whitehall budgets have been cut by on average 7%.

“The Government must examine how the health and schools budgets could be most effectively used. It should widen the ringfence to incorporate the local services which help the elderly stay independent longer and ensure children are ready for school. This will ultimately save money by reducing pressure on our hospitals, police and prisons.

“The only way of maintaining public services in the face of proposed long-term cuts is to design them around the needs of people and communities. That means devolving budgets away from Whitehall to local areas to increase cooperation between public agencies, save money and improve services. Research by Ernst and Young shows that this approach would save up to £4bn a year across the public sector.

“Local government bore the brunt of cuts in the last Spending Review. For the sake of the public it cannot afford to do so again.”

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