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Kerslake: Central government too focused on Brexit to help council finances

The former head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake, has argued that central government is disregarding councils and local authorities as it is too preoccupied with Brexit.

Lord Kerslake’s comments came as he spoke at CIPFA’s conference last week, where he also argued that the squeeze on local government finance is “shamefully not recognised by much of central government.”

The peer argued that local authorities need better support from Westminster and that the latter should not allow Brexit to overshadow this.

According to CIPFA’s Public Finance, Lord Kerslake said: “Brexit dominates the political environment which we work in, and one of the consequences of that is that big issues – like social care – have been submerged by the Brexit debate.

“It is really hard to break beyond the Brexit debate.”

During the LGA conference last year, he had argued that powers that come back through Brexit must be given to local government rather than just Whitehall.

His latest comments come at a time when local authorities are struggling financially: just this month, Burnley and Somerset councils announced major spending cuts, whereas Swindon, Warrington and Newcastle councils are all expecting deficits this year.

Vital services such as social care and children’s services are bearing the brunt of most spending cuts.

Despite this backdrop of cuts, Kerslake said that councils had “coped brilliantly” with austerity and lack of central government funds.

He also warned that if funding for local authorities is not found within the next year or two, “local government as a whole will be in an unsustainable position.”

Top image:  Peter Byrne via PA Wire/PA Images


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