Osborne urged to maintain council funding levels in Autumn Statement

3 Dec 13
Councils could face bankruptcy if Chancellor George Osborne announces more cuts to local authority funding in Thursday’s Autumn Statement, trade union Unison has warned

By Richard Johnstone | 3 December 2013

Councils could face bankruptcy if Chancellor George Osborne announces more cuts to local authority funding in Thursday’s Autumn Statement, trade union Unison has warned.

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The union called on Osborne to recognise that councils funding has been hit disproportionately by the coalition’s austerity programme and commit to protect spending levels in the statement. As well as no further cuts, this should include no top-slicing of the local government grant to finance other elements of government spending, such as new burdens placed on town halls.

‘Local government is groaning under the strain of trying to deliver services with an ever-reducing pot,’ general secretary Dave Prentis said.

‘It would be a disaster for councils if further cuts are announced. A number could go under as it is.’

However, the leader of Westminster City Council, Philippa Roe, urged local government not to be ‘fearful’ of the need to make extra savings from town hall budgets.

The prime minister and chancellor are ‘holding their nerve’ on spending reductions, and councils must do the same, she said.

‘Austerity is going to be here for another ten years, yet our residents depend on us for hundreds of services, so we need to start saying “we will”, rather than “we can’t”.’

However, she urged Osborne to set out a ‘new deal’ between Whitehall and local places through an extension of the government’s Community Budgets programme.

This would create financial certainty for all public services in a local area, with shared risk and reward between Whitehall and councils in tackling issues such as youth unemployment and growing demands for adult social care. Pilot programmes for the pooled spending initiative, which have included Westminster, showed the possible benefits for both service improvement and cost reduction, she added.

Local Public Service Reform Deals could allow all councils to adopt this approach.‘This way, we can work as one to deliver savings and improved services across every aspect of local life,’ Roe said.

‘With the chancellor’s help, local government doesn’t have to wheel out the begging bowl. It can start a national drive which will bring everyone, from the prime minister to an accident and emergency nurse, together behind one common goal of spending money on places and people, rather than in public service silos.’

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