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15th March 2023

Solace statement on the 2023 Budget

Responding to the Chancellor’s 2023 Budget, Solace local government finance spokesperson Patrick Melia said: “This Budget contains some helpful measures for councils and communities they serve but sadly it does nothing to address wider concerns about the longer-term sustainability of not just local authorities but many parts of the country.

“Plans to devolve more powers and funding, including flexibilities over longer-term finance settlements, for trailblazer combined authorities is potentially exciting but we need to see the detail as well as Ministers’ plans for extending this approach to the rest of the country. Similarly, we look forward to seeing the detail on proposals to transfer economic development responsibilities from LEPs to councils. This could be really powerful in helping to regenerate local areas and create good quality jobs but it is crucial there is appropriate funding to support this.

“Again, we need to see the detail but changing the total amount that workers can accumulate in their pension savings before paying extra tax could help stem the flow of experienced talent from the public sector, including councils, and which has accentuated the workforce crises affecting many arms of government. However, a long-term workforce strategy similar to the one for the NHS is also required.

“We welcome the additional money to address the inflationary pressure on leisure centre running costs, along with the extra funding for vital voluntary and community sector organisations. The expansion of free childcare combined with more help with costs for families on universal credit plus a small extension to some of the support on offer for household energy bills will help some of the most vulnerable families in the face of the ongoing cost of living crisis. But it is clear that these measures alone are not going to solve the financial problems so many of our residents are facing.

“Because the truth is the big issues facing councils – rising demand, increasingly complex and costly caseloads, and budget-busting inflationary pressures – will remain until we have a local government finance system that delivers sustainable, multi-year settlements. Only then will local authorities be able to properly plan how to best support all their residents and drive the economic growth, regeneration, and good quality jobs that they need.”