CIPFA: Struggling public sector bodies need cash now

13 Mar 18

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s hint that public spending could rise in the autumn will not help those dealing with strained budgets now, CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman has warned.

Hammond said in his spring statement today that if favourable economic trends continued he might announce more resources for the public sector in his autumn budget.

Whiteman said: “The suggestion that there might be additional resources in the autumn will not satisfy those public bodies struggling right now.

“And if growth continues at the current pace there will still be a growing disconnect between funding and service expectation.”

With clear budget strains across the public sector – in particular in the NHS and local government – it was “disappointing not to see further support for those sectors most at need”, and it remained crucial that the government began to plan for the sector’s financial sustainability, the CIPFA CEO said. 

Whiteman, though, welcomed commitments to increase support or training and apprenticeships.

Martin Reeves, finance spokesperson for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, said: “It is very disappointing that today’s spring statement does nothing to alleviate the funding crisis facing local services, given the National Audit Office’s warning mere days ago that local government is fast becoming financially unsustainable.

“Like any other business, councils need certainty, stability and flexibility to plan effectively for the future. The chancellor's commitment to bringing forward the next business rates revaluation must not introduce more instability to councils' financial base.”

District Councils' Network chair John Fuller said: “The chancellor has missed an opportunity to recognise the crucial role that district councils play in their communities, especially in health and prevention.

“We hope that government investment will be forthcoming soon to those councils who can help solve problems, one family at a time.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the chancellor’s “complacency” was “astounding”, in his response to the statement.

“We face – in every public service – a crisis on the scale we’ve never seen before.

“The chancellor has proclaimed that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But this shows just how cut off from the real world he is.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable called the statement “a non-event”.

He said: “It is time the government was honest with the public: there will need to be tax increases to pay for the NHS and social care, police and schools.

“This is why the Liberal Democrats have advocated a penny in the pound income tax increase for health and care.”

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