Yet again the Local Government Association is crying wolf about reductions in council spending. In their Autumn Statement Submission the LGA says:
Our key message is that the spending reductions to local government budgets and the pressure to reduce fees or taxes must stop. If income falls, the services that people rely on and value will inevitably suffer too.
Their paper says that during this Parliament “local government core funding will fall by 43 per cent.” That misleading as the relevant point is total council spending – which comes from several different sources. They are probably just talking about Formula Grant. What about Business Rates? The New Homes Bonus? Council Tax? The extra funding to reward freezing Council Tax? To imply this other funding doesn’t count is a bit silly.
Yet it is true that council spending has fallen in real terms. At the same time resident satisfaction with council services has increased. Council chief executives have mostly found the impact of the cuts positive or neutral as it has prompted them to review the way they operate.
The overall reduction in local government spending will be just 2.3 per cent in 2015-16. The LGA ask us to believe this will result in some sort of meltdown. They don’t offer any examples of which councils they believe are heading for crisis.
At any rate these dire warnings are familiar. In May the LGA said the cuts were “unsustainable.” (They also said the cuts were “unsustainable” last December.) In March this year they said the cuts would “bring local government to its knees.” In June last year they said “popular council services” were under threat. In 2011 the alarmist talk was of a “funding gap” of £6.5 billion.
In 2010 the LGA said the cuts would mean “no option” but “to cut front line services people rely on.” The cuts would “inevitably” mean cuts in services. The services that most residents have since improved.
Wouldn’t it be better if the LGA celebrated the success of local councils rather than giving us this repetitive and dishonest story of doom and gloom?