There is a report in The Times (£) this morning that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is lifting the ring fencing requirements on £7 billion worth of central Government funding to Town Halls. This is very welcome both in terms of the advance of local democracy and also in allowing the money to be better spent. One of the frustration for councillors of spotting some unnecessary spending – but then having it patiently explained that it didn't cost the council taxpayer anything it was "free money" from some central grant or other – but that if it wasn't spent on a particular thing in a particular way we couldn't spend it on anything.
The Times report says:
Specific grants for schools, the police and fire services will be protected. But the rules that forced councils to spend money on other areas such as travellers, homelessness and the disabled, often by commissioning voluntary groups, look likely to be relaxed.
The number of protected grants will drop from 90 to 10.
They suggest this will mean councils will use the voluntary sector proportionately less. It ain't necessarily so. My council has spent more, in total, on grants to voluntary groups, while cutting spending elsewhere, because we believe the voluntary sector offers value for money.