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Cuts to local services a ‘mathematical certainty’ – LGA

If Government delivers a further 10% cut on funding for local government in the next spending round, money for non-statutory services could have to be reduced by up to 90%.

The LGA has mapped the likely impact of further spending reductions, modelling dramatic cuts across a broad combination of services in 2015/16. This could include children’s centres, museums, libraries, sports centres, reduced road maintenance and higher bus fares.

The report warns of a “rapidly growing financial black hole”, which could total £16.5bn by 2019/20 unless major reform is undertaken. This difference between projected funding and the predicted cost of delivering the current level of services is “unsustainable”, the LGA states.

The association is calling for the removal or adjustment of ringfencing from health and schools budgets, which could be used more effectively to reduce demand and improve educational outcomes.

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said: “Local government has so far borne the brunt of cuts to public spending. If the Government pursues the same policy again local services will suffer to the point where many councils start failing their communities.

“Councils were already the most efficient part of the public sector before the current spending round. Over the past three years they have worked tirelessly to deliver new efficiencies through measures such as sharing services, restructuring the workforce and reducing senior pay.

“This work can only go so far in reducing the impact of funding cuts on local services. In many council areas we have now reached a stage where noticeable cuts to local services are a mathematical certainty unless the next spending round places local government finance on a sustainable footing.

“The Government has to take steps which deliver long-term efficiency across the whole public sector and encourage government agencies in local areas to work together to find ways of improving services and making savings. In the short term this has to involve the removal, or at the very least adjustment, of ring-fencing from health and schools budgets to ensure services like social care and early intervention for troubled children are properly funded. This is the most effective way of reducing the demand for other, more costly public services elsewhere. 

“Ultimately the only way of maintaining public services in the face of proposed long-term cuts is a radical redesign of the way public services are provided and paid for. This has to be based on the idea of allowing local areas to design services around the needs of people and communities. Our research shows that the Community Budgets approach would save billions of pounds a year while improving the quality of services, but this potential will only be met if the whole public sector embraces the idea.”

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