06.12.18

Local government finance settlement delay reactions: Brexit debate ‘has become a distraction’

Leaders in local government have been reacting harshly to the delay of the local government finance settlement announced yesterday afternoon.

Contrary to what the government had promised, communities secretary James Brokenshire revealed that the settlement will only be released following the major Brexit vote on 11 December, but promised the usual period for making representations on the provisional settlement will “not be truncated as a result.”

Responding to the delay, chairman of the LGA Lord Porter said: “It is a shame that the Brexit debate has become a distraction from the pressures facing local government.

“We hope the government uses this delay to ensure the Settlement provides the resources needed for our local services.”

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s shadow communities and local government secretary, went further, arguing that prime minister Theresa May’s weakness has “completely immobilised the government.”

“The Tories are so trapped in a crisis of their own making over their botched Brexit negotiations that they are neglecting the needs of the country,” he added.

“Having delayed the introduction of several key policies, it’s clear that the prime minister is in office but not in power. Over eight years, the Tories have cut central government funding for local authorities by 50%, leaving our councils on the brink of collapse and public services at breaking point.”

Piali Das Gupta, head of policy at Solace, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, had a similar point of view.

"Realistically, most councils probably had modest expectations about how far the provisional settlement would go towards delivering the funding sufficiency, certainty, stability and flexibility that local services urgently need," she told PSE.

"Nevertheless, a great deal still hinges on the settlement, not least the ability to set council tax. It remains absurd that key information for the setting of local service budgets only comes out long after councils have had to go out to consultation with residents on proposals."

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