The Local Government Association has responded to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, with Chairman James Jamieson showing both hope and concern.
With the great financial and political instability that have risen from recent events, it has been hard for local authorities to know exactly where they stand. Whether it be changing Prime Minister resulting in shifts in priorities, or the financial crisis meaning that services are reduced and levelling up plans are paused, it has been hard to understand how the public sector can move forward.
In a statement on the LGA website, Cllr James Jamieson said:
“Local government is the fabric of the country, as has been proved in the recent challenging years we have faced as a nation. It is good that the Chancellor has used the Autumn Statement to act on the LGA’s call to save services from spiralling inflation, demand and cost pressures.
“While the financial outlook for councils is better than we feared next year, councils recognise it will be residents and businesses who will be asked to pay more. We have been clear that council tax has never been the solution to meeting the long-term pressures facing services – particularly high-demand services like adult social care, child protection and homelessness prevention. It also raises different amounts of money in different parts of the country unrelated to need and adds to the financial burden facing households.
“We are pleased that government will provide extra funding for adult social care and accepted our ask for funding allocated towards reforms to still be available to address inflationary pressures for both councils and social care providers. Councils have always supported the principle of adult social care reforms and wants to deliver them effectively but have warned that underfunded reforms would have exacerbated significant ongoing financial and workforce pressures. The government needs to use the delay announced today to learn from the trailblazers to ensure that funding and support is in place for councils and providers to ensure they can be implemented successfully.
“The revised social rent cap is higher than anticipated next year but councils will still have to cope with the additional financial burden as a result of lost income. Councils support moves to keep social rents as low as possible but this will have an impact on councils’ ability to build the homes our communities desperately need - which is one of the best ways to boost growth - and retrofit existing housing stock to help the Government meet net zero goals.
“Financial turbulence is as damaging to local government as it is for our businesses and financial markets and all councils and vital services, such as social care, planning, waste and recycling collection and leisure centres, continue to face an uncertain future. Councils want to work with central government to develop a long-term strategy to deliver critical local services and growth more effectively. Alongside certainty of funding and greater investment, this also means wider devolution where local leaders have greater freedom from central government to take decisions on how to provide vital services in their communities.”
This statement follows a similar one, released before the Autumn Statement, where the Chancellor was urged to protect local services, including the ones that are crucial to residents and the council’s have a legal obligation to provide.