Councils restructuring in face of ‘unparalleled cuts’

14 May 19

Councils are having to restructure services in the face of the most “intense cuts without parallel in modern times”, MPs have heard.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman told the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday that “low-hanging fruit went some time ago”.

“Councils are having to deal with the medium restructuring of their services,” he told the committee. “A real worry is [that] prevention is difficult to protect considering the degree of budget cuts being made.”

Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics, told the MPs that “reductions since 2010-11 are without parallel in modern times [because] of [their] scale, intensity and long time period in which [they have] taken place”. He said that although local government spending had gone up, “central government spending had gone up much more”.

Whiteman said that the severity of the cuts on local authorities since austerity started nearly nine years ago had highlighted pressures on services such as children’s and adult social care.

Councils were suffering a “double whammy” of service pressures going up while the grant received from government was squeezed over a long period of time.



As Pete Murphy, professor at Nottingham Trent University, pointed out, “the population has been growing - but, more importantly, the parts of the population that have demands on the services have been grower faster”.

“The most obvious example of this is adult social services,” he added.

Neil Amin-Smith, research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told the committee that local government received about 10% more in real terms per person between 2017-2018, compared with 2000-2001. But as a percentage of national income, local government funding had fallen by about 7% between those years, he added.

Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general, also gave evidence to the committee yesterday afternoon.

Chair Clive Betts asked him whether Westminster had “really understood the likely impact of what they were doing” when they significantly cut local government funding in 2010. Or “did they do it and think they’d work the impacts out later?”, Betts asked.

Morse said he believed that government had made the cuts without thinking about the impacts, because there was “great pressure to find savings at the time”.

He said the National Audit Office, of which he is chief executive, had “called consistently for a clearer understanding of how services are being affected by spending reductions”.

“We have been calling for progress [on assessing local government cuts],” he said. “There has been some progress but not as much as we’d like to see.”

Did you enjoy this article?