Clark to make case for local funding certainty

2 Jul 15

Local government secretary Greg Clark has said he will make the case for greater certainty in council funding settlements as the government prepares for the Spending Review.

Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Harrogate today, Clark faced a question from Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, who said councils needed more certainty on settlements and council tax increases so they could plan for the future and find the necessary savings.

In response, Clark said long-term certainty over resources would not solve the dilemma councils have, it would allow them to plan and be more effective.

“There is a case for future certainty,” he said, adding that this could be provided either through the devolution discussions councils are engaged with or more generally.

“I will clearly reflect the case for [funding certainty in CSR discussions], including the national advantages as well as the local advantages,” he told LGA delegates.

In his speech, Clark said he would “argue hard” for a reasonable settlement for local government.

“One that makes savings, but that does so in a fair, transparent and intelligent way.

“An intelligent approach lies in recognising that while Whitehall may be organised along neat departmental lines, meeting the needs of real people in the real places is a very different matter.”

He told delegates that the opportunity to do things differently was open to all of them, as Manchester’s agreement on health funding demonstrated.

“When I negotiated city and local growth deals I didn’t pretend I had new cash to hand out,” the secretary of state said.

“At a time when total resources in the public sector are shrinking, what I offered you was the chance to take a bigger slice of the funding that is available. And, what’s more, the opportunity to make it go further – by managing it more creatively and using it to attract local private sector investment.

“You not only rose to the challenge, but did so magnificently. The £7bn of funds taken from central government departments became £21bn worth of local investment.

“I now invite you to rise to that challenge again – and on a grander scale.”

Clark urged neighbouring councils to put aside their differences and work together, work closely with local businesses and be ambitious.

He said the upcoming Spending Review provided the ideal opportunity for local government to demonstrate that the whole nation can benefit if things are done differently.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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