CIPFA finds half of town hall CFOs doubt savings scope

23 Nov 15

Half of council finance directors are less confident in the ability to deliver savings than they were a year ago, a CIPFA survey ahead of this week’s Spending Review has found.

The poll of 237 local authority finance chiefs found that 49% were less confident in their ability to deliver services for the next financial year than a year ago. Confidence levels in the sector are diminishing. When CFOs were asked the same questions last year, 41% said they were not confident they could deliver the required saving, while the year before that the proportion was 27%.

In addition, more than half (56%) of this year’s respondents said they were less confident about their organisation’s position for the 2016/17 financial year. This week’s Spending Review, which is expected to confirm further cuts to local government budgets.

When asked to name the services most under pressure, more than 95% cited adult social care, 94% children’s social care, 44% environment and regulatory services and 37% housing.

In particular, respondents stated it was unclear how further cuts can be made to adult social care without further impacting on this service, while the cost of introducing the National Living Wage needs to be factored into the cost of provision.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the poll made clear that deep and ongoing budget cuts and increased demand meant finance directors were rapidly losing confidence in the ability of their organisations to deliver essential services.

“While this will come as no surprise to many in the sector, it should set alarm bells ringing across government as more and more councils struggle to balance the books with some authorities now facing a fiscal cliff,” he stated. “The government urgently needs to acknowledge this in the Spending Review and adopt a long-term public sector wide approach so councils can be funded in a fair and sustainable way if they are to avoid financial failure.”

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