Council tax to rise this year
More than half the councils that responded to the survey (53%) are eating into their reserves to stay afloat, with four out of five (81%) investing in commercial developments. More worrying, almost half were planning on cuts to services and around 80% of senior council decision makers believe the current funding system is unsustainable.
A minority of councils are facing significant shortfalls. One in 20 councils (22 councils in England) are concerned they won’t be able to deliver the legal minimum service for residents.
Children’s services and education are the priority areas for councils, ahead of adult social care. However, adult social care is still under severe strain, named as the top long-term financial pressure by 37% of councils.
Gang activity, including county lines operations, was identified as a top pressure on children’s services by one in 20 upper-tier councils, all of which were located in the South East, London and the Midlands.
Respondents to the survey said they would reduce spending on arts and culture (46%), parks and leisure activities (45%), roads (38%), libraries (32%) waste collection (22%) and recycling (11%). Services for vulnerable people are also facing cuts, with councils planning to reduce activity in adult social care (29%), children’s care services (24%), special education and disability support (16%), homelessness support (11%) and funding for local Citizens’ Advice Bureaus (18%).
Chief executive of the LGiU, Jonathan Carr-West, said: “With more cuts ahead, local councils have no option but to take drastic measures to make ends meet. In the future care for the elderly and vulnerable children could be funded from shopping centre investments and car parks, which carries significant risk if the economy tanks.
“Now more than ever do we need a thriving, resilient local government sector to weather the storm of national uncertainty, but years of chronic under-funding has left local government on life support.”