GMB call on Government to heed Public Accounts Committee warning
GMB call on Government to heed Public Accounts Committee warning on councils starved of funds for vital services
It is high time that the government grants to local authorities be increased to ease the pressure and this needs to be followed up by a number of years where spending by councils are increased, says GMB London
GMB, the union for local authority and care workers, have commented on the Public Accounts Committee report on council spending. [See notes to editors for Press Association story on committee report].
Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary said:
"GMB members in the front line know how cash starved and cut to the bone local authorities are as a result of the austerity cuts imposed over the last 9 years. This warning from the Public Accounts committee reflects what GMB has been warning about as well.
“We need Members of Parliament to impose their will for policy to be reversed. It is high time that the government grants to local authorities be increased to ease the pressure. We need this to be followed up by a number of years where spending by councils are increased"
Contact: Vaughan West 07967 342197 or GMB London Press Office 07970 114762
Notes to Editors
Ministers have been accused by MPs of being "in denial" over the "perilous" state of local government finances in England.
After years of cuts to Whitehall funding, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said councils were under "enormous pressure" just to main essential services such as adult and children's social care.
However, it said the Government's response had been a series of "short-term fixes" to enable authorities to keep going with no clear plan to put them on a sustainable financial footing for the future.
Over the past eight years, central government funding to English local authorities has been cut by almost half, while demand for services has risen, with the rate of looked-after children at a 25 year high, the PAC said.
Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, council spending on services fell by 19.2% in real terms while the Local Government Association estimates authorities face a £3.2 billion shortfall by 2019-20.
The Government responded by announcing a £1.4 billion cash injection in the Budget in October.
But with half the money due to be spent before the end of the current financial year, the PAC said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had been unable to provide assurances it would be used effectively.
"Some councils are now in an extremely worrying position: overspending their budgets for social care, reducing key services, falling back on financial reserves and increasingly relying on generating other sources of income, which comes with greater risks," the committee said.
"The Government has had to inject large amounts of additional funding to ensure that the local authority sector can keep going in the short-term: £1.4 billion in the 2018 budget.
"Yet disturbingly, there is still no sign that the department has a clear plan to secure the financial sustainability of local authorities in the long-term."
The committee said the MHCLG had shown "an unacceptable lack of ambition" for the sector with no aspiration for local government finances beyond "merely coping".
It said it was "deeply dismayed" the MHCLG seemed to view the issue in terms of a small set of statutory services authorities are required to provide by law - predominantly social care - rather than the full range of services residents expect from their council.
"There are a range of other services, such as libraries and youth services, which local people can reasonably expect their council to provide, but which the department does not consider rigorously when determining whether local authorities are financially sustainable," it said.
"We are concerned that the department's narrow view of service provision risks giving a misleading picture of the sustainability of services as a whole."
The committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: "The Government is in denial about the perilous state of local finances. It insists the sector is sustainable yet is unwilling or unable to back up this claim. Flimsy assertions have no place in financial planning.
"Government needs to get real, listen fully to the concerns of local government and take a hard look at the real impact funding reductions have on local services. And then it needs to plan properly for the long-term."