Warning over loss of treasured council services

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Communities face mounting cuts to popular services from parks to buses unless action is taken to ease a multi-billion pound black hole, council bodies have warned.

The Local Government Association, launching a campaign ahead of the upcoming spending review, estimates that English councils need an extra £8bn by 2025 to maintain core duties.

Under-pressure town halls are increasingly diverting funding from optional services to those they must provide by law, the body warns, as demand grows over social care services.

There is a resulting risk to provision such as museum maintenance, litter bins, libraries and leisure centres, it adds, if the Government does not act to secure their financial future.

“If the Government fails to adequately fund local government then it will be our local communities and economies who will suffer the consequences,” said chairman Lord Porter. “It will be those who rely on vital adult social care to live independent lives, rural bus routes to get out and about, council tax support to ease financial burdens and those who value clean streets, green spaces and roads fit for the purpose.”

The LGA is calling for the spending review to support local authorities, which it says will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 provided by central government between 2010 and 2020.

“This is the only way to ensure councils can meet their legal duties to provide dignified care for our elderly and disabled, protect children, reduce homelessness and protect the wide-range of other valued local services which make such a positive difference to communities and people’s lives,” added Lord Porter.

Authority leaders in Yorkshire say every effort is being made to maintain services as they face steep falls in spending power at a time of rising demand.

North Yorkshire leader, County Coun Carl Les, said councils have responded strongly as they stand at the “forefront” of austerity savings: “We will continue to do the best we can for our communities, to deliver good education and social care for young and old, to keep the county on the move and support economic growth.”

Coun James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader, said he hoped Ministers listened to calls to ensure the continuation of services without having to raise council tax. “If Lord Porter, who is the Conservative’s leader in Local Government, warns that the impact of his own Government’s cuts on council services are breaking local services then they must have gone too far,” he said.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £91.5 billion over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents.

“Authorities are receiving an £1bn extra in funding this coming year to help deliver local services, support vulnerable residents and build vibrant communities.

“We have launched a consultation seeking views on what factors will be included in a new funding formula. This is a complex piece of work and we’re taking the time to get it right.”