Friday, 7 September 2018

Local government and austerity

The local government story which has dominated the headlines of late has been the financial meltdown in Northamptonshire:
Futures Forum: The pulverisation of local government

And the story has been getting international attention - as more and more are objecting to the 'austerity' programmes which have provoked the crisis:
As Austerity Helps Bankrupt an English County, Even Conservatives Mutiny - The New York Times

With a cross-spectrum of views adding to this sense of dismay:
Austerity ideologues must wake up to growing debt bubble | LGC Briefing | Local Government Chronicle
The Guardian view on public services: the state has abandoned its responsibilities | Editorial | Opinion | The Guardian

The crisis is now spreading to the West Country:
'Very sharp end' of austerity hits in Somerset in plans to cut £28m from council spending | Somerset County Gazette
Up to 130 jobs at risk at Somerset Council - LocalGov.co.uk - Your authority on UK local government
Somerset County Council - BBC News

The BBC reports from ten local authorities - two of which are in this part of the world:

Councils under financial strain

man putting rubbish in binImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Away from the permutations of Brexit negotiations, ongoing leadership jostling and racism rows a less discussed debate continues a lot closer to home: the future of local government finances.
As English councils strive to balance their yearly budgets, keep reserves stocked and plan future savings any service that can be cut is at risk. It has meant fewer bin collections, fewer libraries and - come the next Beast from the East - fewer roads that will be gritted.
Instead, legal obligations dictate councils must fund certain aspects of adult social care and children's services - both of which are in high demand and very expensive.
Nationally, the overall financial picture is stark.
The Local Government Association, the umbrella body for all councils, says by 2020 councils will have faced a reduction of core funding since 2010 of nearly £16bn - a loss of 60p in every £1.
A recent survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) suggested 95% of local authorities planned to increase council tax this financial year and two thirds have dipped into their reserves. While, on Children's Services alone, BBC figures revealed a £640m overspend last year.
The Department for Housing, Community and Local Government says £90.7bn will be provided to councils over the next two years, on top of giving them the power to earn extra through retaining an increased share of business rates.
But Labour say budgets are "stretched to breaking point," with urgent sustainable funding immediately needed or councils will collapse.
So which councils are under financial strain?

Somerset County Council (Conservative)

Somerset County Council headquarters at County Hall in TauntonImage copyrightGOOGLE

On Monday evening, the council announced £13m worth of extra cuts and the loss of up to 130 jobs as it seeks to tackle an £11.4m overspend that came predominately in children's services.
The 70 savings proposals, due to be voted on next week, include a reduced road gritting service, suspension of a town centre and hospital park and ride and a reduction in youth services.
The council leader says Somerset is at the "very sharp end" of continued austerity.

Torbay Council (Conservative)

As a pre-emptive measure to avoid running into reserves, unitary authority Torbay has introduced a spending moratorium, effectively outlawing non-urgent purchases - a measure that could mean the cancellation of next year's Torbay Air Show.
The council's chief executive Steve Parrock says they have not run out of money or reserves but are facing increased demand combined with Government funding cuts.

Councils under financial strain - BBC News

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