Inner London authorities ‘hit hardest by budget cuts’

13 May 19

London council budgets have fallen by 17% over the past eight years, think-tank analysis has found.

Planning and development, highways and transport and cultural activity budgets have endured the largest cuts, according to analysis of budgets since 2010-11.

report from Centre for London out today found that, taking population growth into account, councils in the capital have seen an overall 17% fall in their budgeted services expenditure per head from £879 in 2010-11 to £729 in 2018-19.

Inner London boroughs were hit hardest, with Westminster suffering the most (-32% cut), followed by Newham (-30%), Tower Hamlets (-29%), Hackney (-28%), Camden (-25%) and Wandsworth (-25%).

Only two boroughs saw their budgets increase over the past eight years – Kensington and Chelsea (+10%) and Barnet (+1%), the analysis found.

Cuts to planning and development budgets have fallen by 59% since 2010-11 across the capital, despite housing delivery targets almost doubling from 25,000 to 43,000 units in 2015-16.

In the past year, however, councils have started to see an upturn in their budgeted expenditure per head across Greater London, which rose 2% from an average of £713 to £729. The think-tank said this rise was the result of additional government funding and council tax for social services coming through.

Silviya Barrett, research manager at Centre for London, said: “London boroughs, like other urban authorities across the country, have shown great ingenuity in adapting to hard-hitting cuts, but they are running out of road.

“The drive for devolution seems to be stuck. It’s time to give the UK’s distinct localities the power and resources to set local tax levels and raise their own taxes.”

Barrett also expressed concerns that the Fair Funding Review will affect the long-term funding of councils that have seen the biggest cuts.

David Harvey, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said: “Westminster is not special, but it is different and has unique pressures on its services. More than one million people a day come through the city – to work, to visit the West End or enjoy our famous attractions. These people use services but do not pay council tax.

“That is significant when you consider the West End alone costs around £10m a year to clean. The system needs to recognise differences like this where they impact on any council.”

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