Council services will still be ‘decimated’ despite Spending Review

Councillor Eileen Blamire.
Councillor Eileen Blamire.

The Lancaster City Council leader said “controversial and unpalatable” decisions will have to be made in the wake of the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

Coun Eileen Blamire said local government would still be hit hard by the contents of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

Mr Osborne said during his speech to the Commons on Wednesday that “public satisfaction with our local government services has risen”.

But Coun Blamire said: “Whilst the Government has unexpectedly backed down from making cuts in some areas, notably working tax credits and police funding, unfortunately that doesn’t apply to local government services.

“Core funding is expected to reduce by 24% over the next few years, and this is on top of the cuts of 40% or so that we’re already managing.

“The overall scale of cuts being faced is unprecedented in living memory.

“Their effect cannot be underestimated and local government and the services it provides will be decimated as a result.

“We have already seen the likely effect that the government cuts are having on Lancashire County Council and libraries, museums, transport and the arts.

“The city council faces equally stark choices and over the next four years we are working on having to save up to £4million from our annual budget by 2019/20.

“Cabinet is due to meet next week and we will be discussing the outcome of the Autumn Statement, but we won’t know any detail until the Local Government Finance Settlement in December so it’s after this that we’ll be able to come forward with our proposals.

“Even then, there will still be uncertainties as the Government will be phasing in some of its other funding changes.

“But it is clear that we will be forced to make controversial and unpalatable decisions with services that people rely on having to close.”

Mr Osborne’s new policies for local government outlined in Wednesday’s speech included a new social care ‘precept’ in council tax of up to 2% to allow local councils to raise £2bn for social care, allowing local government to keep all revenue from business rates by the end of the Parliament, offering new powers to groups of councils in exchange for an elected mayor and allowing local authorities to keep 100% of receipts from properties they sell.

The overall funding to local authorities is predicted to fall by 6.7% and the central grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government will fall by 56%.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “It is wrong that the services our local communities rely on will face deeper cuts than the rest of the public sector yet again and for local taxpayers to be left to pick up the bill for new government policies without any additional funding.

“Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”