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Pickles calls for ‘more for less’ at LGA conference

Communities’ secretary Eric Pickles has maintained that councils will continue to be able to provide quality services, despite huge cuts outlined in the recent Spending Review.

Addressing the Local Government Association (LGA) annual conference yesterday, he attacked ‘doom mongers’ and called for local authorities to “be bold” and make “extra effort” to find further savings into the future.

Pickles said: “The public aren't going to tolerate higher parking charges, higher council taxes, higher business rates, a new sales tax and a new hotels tax. Instead we're looking for the councils to lead reform themselves: be bold and to show ambition.

“We want them to do more for less, so the taxpayer gets a better deal. The Spending Round sets the way forward. This is about demanding the transformation of services now, not just asking to restructure government machinery. And lowering household bills now. Over the last decade residents felt weighed down by the council tax albatross – council tax bills had doubled under Labour, but we have taken decisive action in that regard, it has stopped spiralling.”

Community budget pilots would be rolled out nationally, he announced, urging different public services to work together more effectively in local areas.

The LGA warned that there was a £14.4bn funding shortfall, which could lead to “dangerous and costly reductions in local services”.

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: “When people talk about councils being able to close the funding gap through greater efficiency they neglect to mention that the bulk of those efficiencies invariably involve either restructuring, tightening eligibility criteria for services and care, and prioritising spending on some services at the expense of others. In other words the efficiencies they talk about are, in significant part, cuts to budgets which lead to reductions in services.

“It is unfair to our residents to raise the expectation that trimming 43% from council funding will have no impact on the services they receive.”

For a full report on the conference, see the July/Aug edition of PSE, or follow us at @psenews for live updates throughout the day.

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