The County Council Network has today (Nov 12) revealed the results of its survey that tries to gauge the funding standpoint of its 36 councils.
Out of the CCN’s 36 councils, four out of five of them feared that they wouldn’t be able to balance the books next year without significant cuts to the services that they currently offer to residents.
As Council funding has seen significant cuts over the past decade, there is also limited scope to cut back on non-care services such as bus routes and libraries that may already be at their bare bones, meaning care services may have to be cut.
The report said:
“Over half (of Councils) (56%) said they were planning to reduce access to care packages and/or introduce new charges for services ‘moderately or severely’, with 42% implementing the same severity of reductions to personal budgets and mental health services. As a result, almost half (46%) said it would mean less people would be able to access council-arranged care packages and 65% said it will lead to more demand on the NHS.”
A third of councils say there are absolutely no cuts to be made to non-care services, without significantly impacting the quality of service that they offer.
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said:
“Over the past decade, councils have done all they can to protect frontline services, transforming their organisations so they are more efficient. But as this survey shows, we are quickly running out of ways to meet the funding shortfall without dramatic reductions which will make visible and damaging changes to highly-valued services.
“The financial support provided by government over the past year has been very welcome. But even before the onslaught of a second wave, councils were facing difficult choices and they are now left with little room to manoeuvre over the coming months as they face further escalating costs resulting in an immediate cliff-edge next year.”
Despite significant extra funding being provided to Councils, it is feared that it just simply won’t be enough as Councils were already operating on a shoestring budget before Covid stretched their budgets further, with a second lockdown making these problems worse.
Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said:
“We pride ourselves on being a well-run local authority, but the onset of a second lockdown has exacerbated underlying funding gaps in our budget, creating huge uncertainty. With expenditure owing to the virus set to rise throughout the winter period, it is imperative that the Spending Review provides clarity and, above all, an uplift in funding for local authorities who have stepped up to the national effort.”