I kid you not when I say that councils funding is hardest hit since the formation of this coalition the way forward would be to lobby your local Councillors, Member of Parliament, and Member of European Parliament to change the legislation and here is the reasons why:
Coalition Government set out the enormous challenge councils across the UK and Wales facing in the years ahead. Sadly the prospects have become even worse in the course of the year and the Government seems determined to press ahead with it’s planned programme of cuts to councils funding right up to 2018. Coalition also demonstrated last year how the grant cuts have been unfairly distributed across the country with areas of greatest need and deprivation receiving the biggest cuts. This unfairness has been repeated in the latest financial settlement for 2014-15 and 2015-16 announced in February. The average cut in Spending Power as defined by the Government for 2014/15 across England will be £72:00 per dwelling but the indicative figures for next year 2015/16 are even more unfair.
Whilst the national average will be around £46:00 there will be many authorities in South and East of England who will actually receive increase funding in that year for example Wokingham will receive £55:00 more per dwelling. Counties such as Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hampshire, and Surrey, towns including Poole, and Windsor and Maidenhead and shire districts like Mid Sussex, Epsom and Ewell will also see an increase in funding in 2015/16. As a result of the grant cuts and other pressures the coalition now had to identify a further £86 Million of cuts in their budget for 2014/15 on top of £376 Million already made between 2010 and 2014. Next year the coalition will have to make even bigger cuts currently estimated at more than £200 Million over and above the £86 Million for this year.
Councils rely on central government for most of its income only about a tenth comes from Council Tax so these cuts have a huge impact. Councils flexibilities is reduced even further because much of the money councils received is embarked for specific services like schools they have very little say on how it is spent. At the same time there are increased pressures for spending on statutory services like social care which they cannot avoid paying for. It comes as no surprise that councils has to make racial changes to the way they have to work and achieve significant efficiency savings for several years under both this political administration and the last. Some councils have to reduce their workforce by 34% since 2010 and a further 2000 jobs will go in the year ahead. However all of this becomes harder each year. Councils have found it extremely difficult to maintain the full range of services they provide. Notwithstanding this financial hardship they have taken the decision to invest allegedly round £9.3 million in 2014/15 into Children’s Safeguarding and corresponding amounts in subsequent years. This has not been easy and has increased the pressure on other services.
It is inevitable that next year councils will have to make hard decisions about which optional services to stop providing altogether and may find it difficult to maintain stationary services to the standard expected. The cuts from 2015 on-wards will create a further financial crisis in many councils across the country. Like it or lump it the scale of cuts means councils needs to completely rethink the role and structure of councils and how they achieve the outcomes they seek sadly this called the end of local government as we all know it. Councils cannot simply carry on doing things as they have always done it or delivering the services they have become used to for decades.
In 2013 councils have set up the most comprehensive review of services they have conducted. The reviews came up with some common approaches to change and they published these in series of “Green Papers” to support a wide dialogue about the way forward. This was forward by a “White Paper” published in December 2013 which set out the conclusions of that dialogue and their detailed proposal for 2014/15 for formal consultation. The white paper also outlined how councils has to change to think long term so that they can begin to make decisions within a broader framework that councils can deliver better services in future.