Councils’ could see their highways and transport budgets slashed if significant new cuts to local government are made in the 2015/16 public spending round.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that budgets for pothole repairs, street lighting and other key services could be cut.
The Association, which represents more than 370 local authorities in England and Wales, has mapped the likely impact on local services if the next spending round were to deliver a 10% cut to the funding an average upper-tier council receives from central government.
The ‘Anycouncil’ modelling shows that residents living in a council area which sits in the mid-range in relation to current funding, levels of deprivation and outlook for economic growth should expect to see key local services dramatically reduced in 2015/16 and beyond unless local government finances are put on a sustainable footing. Millions of residents are living in areas where their council will have to consider similar measures.
The predicted impact on local services in the average upper-tier council is due to a combination of the sizable cuts to funding the Government has already implemented across the current spending period (2011/12 to 2014/15), the exhaustion of readily-obtainable improvements in efficiency and the rising demand for adult social care.
Local government as a whole, which is seeing its funding from central government cut by £10 billion in real terms across the current spending period (2011/12 to 2014/15), is facing a rapidly growing financial black hole, brought about by a combination of cuts and the escalation in demand for and the cost of delivering adult social care. It is predicted that by 2019/20, unless there is major reform of local government finance, the black hole will be £16.5 billion.
The LGA is calling on the Government to take a number of steps in the 2015/16 spending round to ensure vital local services are not placed on the endangered list. Among the most pressing is the removal, or at the very least adjustment, of ringfencing from health and schools budgets.
Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said: “Local government has so far borne the brunt of cuts to public spending. If the Government pursues the same policy again local services will suffer to the point where many councils start failing their communities.
“Anycouncil is an average upper-tier local authority and the measures it will have to consider if faced with a further 10% cut in 2015/16 will have to be considered by many councils right across the country. If the residents of Anycouncil face the prospect of closures to children’s centres and libraries, more potholes on local roads and lights out after midnight, then millions of residents are living in areas where their council will be forced to do the same.
“Councils were already the most efficient part of the public sector before the current spending round. Over the past three years they have worked tirelessly to deliver new efficiencies through measures such as sharing services, restructuring the workforce and reducing senior pay. This work can only go so far in reducing the impact of funding cuts on local services. In many council areas we have now reached a stage where noticeable cuts to local services are a mathematical certainty unless the next spending round places local government finance on a sustainable footing.”