Autumn Statement silent on cuts detail, says CIPFA

3 Dec 14

Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement did not provide any explanation of how public services will be able to deliver cuts still to be made, CIPFA has said.

Responding to the chancellor’s speech, chief executive Rob Whiteman highlighted that public services faced ‘staggering pressure’, with continued budget reductions planned into the next parliament.

In his statement, Osborne confirmed that £15bn would need to be saved in the first two years of the next Parliament through ongoing reductions to departmental spending.

‘We’ve shown in this Parliament that we can deliver spending reductions without damaging frontline public services if you’re prepared to undertake reform,’ he told MPs.

‘Crime is down. Satisfaction with local government services is up – savings and reform. We will do exactly the same again.’

But Whiteman warned this meant services face increasing challenges to maintain delivery for taxpayers.

‘When you add in the impact of the ring-fencing of some budgets, such as the NHS and the protection of pensioners, the significance of the cuts still to come for other areas of public spending could damage their ability to deliver.

‘However, today’s statement contained little recognition of this and no explanation from the government about how public services will continue under such long-term pressures.’

He added that CIPFA has long argued there is a need to move beyond the short-term nature of funding in this country and avoid measures aimed only at the next political cycle.

‘As we stated in our recent manifesto, we urgently need to start to address our long-term challenges and work to fix the public finances for the next decade, not just the next election.’

Responding to Osborne’s announcement of a review of business rates, Whiteman said it was welcome, ‘even if it looks likely to be much delayed’ until the Budget in 2016.

The Treasury pledged that any changes would be ‘consistent with the government’s agreed financing of local authorities’, and Whiteman urged the impact on councils to be carefully considered.

‘We would hope that its remit will include a review of the scope for greater local control over both income and the level of the business rates,’ he added.

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