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17th December 2015

Solace statement on the Local Government Financial Settlement

On 17th December the Government announced the Local Government Financial Settlement. This is a statement from Mark Rogers, President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) in response to the announcement.

SOLACE is supportive of the confirmation in today’s settlement that there will be full business rate localisation by the end of this Parliament as this potentially provides a means towards achieving local government financial self-sufficiency. We likewise welcome the fact local government has been offered an indicative budget for the next four years, enabling councils to better plan ahead. This is something we have long been advocating for.

However, the devil will most definitely lie in the detail and we remain concerned to ensure that there is fairness and equity for all councils, along with a commitment from government to review seriously the expectations placed on local government. SOLACE is particularly concerned to avoid the introduction of new burdens at a time when councils are struggling to deliver existing responsibilities. A thorough rethink of funding, including the devolution of complementary tax-raising powers and the rapid roll-out of place-based budgets, needs to be accompanied by a realistic review of councils’ functions.

SOLACE advocates the need for a full and radical re-evaluation of what is realistic in terms of the future services and outcomes that local government should be responsible for given the scale of funding reductions that will have been implemented by the end of the decade.

With the arrangement set out today, there is a danger that the differential ability of local authorities up and down the country to stimulate economic growth will mean that some will struggle to maintain even the most essential statutory services, despite high levels of need, such as for social care. This needs to be addressed if we are to achieve the sustainability of income and, therefore, services that our residents expect and deserve.