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6th March 2024

Solace Statement on the 2024 Budget

Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Patrick Melia, Solace spokesperson for local government finance, said: “It is disappointing that among all the measures announced in the Budget the Government has, once again, failed to properly address the extreme financial pressures facing local government. Councils have to operate within a long-outdated finance system in need of fundamental reform and are facing ever increasing pressures: rising demand for adult and children’s social care, special educational needs provision, and housing, as well as increased costs due to inflation. While the additional £600m of funding announced in January to address some of these pressures was welcome, the Institute for Government has highlighted how local services are ‘struggling’ and calculated it would require an additional £1.7bn just to return councils’ spending power to the level planned by the Government in 2021.

“Local government has long been recognised as one of the most, if not the most, efficient parts of the public sector. That is why it is particularly disappointing that the Government has chosen to ignore the real issues we are facing and instead make misleading statements about councils’ spending. The truth is councils are long past the point of delivering savings through efficiencies and are now firmly in the territory of reducing or cutting services that will impact on residents – including preventative services that will result in greater costs down the line. And with the gloomy future outlook for public finances, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has already warned that it will “make it more difficult” for councils to meet the government’s public service objectives.

“Continued underinvestment in local areas will only serve to further restrict the economic prospects of the country at a time when growth has never been more needed.

“We cannot continue to ignore these issues – very soon central government will have to grasp this nettle, properly address the systemic financial challenges facing local government, and so unleash the potential of places to create good new jobs and drive local and national economic growth. Sustainable finances will also allow areas to think longer-term and invest in prevention and early intervention services that will result in better quality of life for their residents and savings to the public purse in the future. Without all of this, communities – and the country – will suffer higher costs in many ways for many years to come.”