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30th October 2018

Solace Response to the Autumn Budget 2018

This is a statement from Martin Reeves, Solace Spokesperson for Local Government Finance in response to Budget 2018 on 29 October:

“Today’s funding announcements for social care and potholes offer a bit of relief but do little to take local public services off the critical list. Unlike the NHS, which has been offered both multi-year funding and a commitment to a 10-year plan, local services have to make do with sticking plasters yet again. The creation of more short-term funding pots is no way to get value for money from public spending.

To put today’s announcements into context:
– Councils receive more than 5000 new claims for adult social care support every day. The additional funding on offer is the equivalent of about £350 for each new claim, significantly less than what it costs to pay for a week’s stay in a care home.
– Similarly, the additional funding for children’s services makes up about 10 percent of the overspend in this area last year.
– At the rate of today’s cash boost for potholes, it will take more than 20 years to make up the current roads repair backlog.

The real breakthrough in the Budget is the confirmation of the lifting of the housing borrowing cap, which is both a vote of confidence in local government and a shot in the arm for the social housing that our communities desperately need. It is a shame that the Government has not shown the same recognition of shared leadership when it comes to business rates.

There is no doubt that business rates are a regressive tax so short term relief will be a lifeline for many businesses. But making unilateral policy decisions to reduce business rates at the same time as making councils more dependent on their revenue renders the funding base for local services even more precarious. Central and local government need to work together on the fundamental reform of local taxes so that they are finally fit for purpose.

If the era of austerity is truly coming to an end, it needs to feel that way to local residents. Today’s Budget contains little that will halt the erosion of the council services that local people value and rely on: libraries, youth clubs, children’s centres, and sports pitches. The most vulnerable in our communities are bearing the brunt.

These are the services that make our communities strong and vital. They are essential to making our places attractive to the employers and investors who can help our local economies to grow. We urge the Government to work with us to ensure the next Comprehensive Spending Review delivers the certainty, stability, and flexibility that our residents and businesses sorely need.