BACK in October, Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative Party Conference that, a decade after the financial crash, “people need to know that the austerity it led to is over and that their hard work has paid off”.
Four months later, that message will ring hollow in town halls across the country given today’s warning that local councils in England are on course to face an £8bn funding gap by 2025.
In the past decade, councils have lost almost 60 per cent of the Government funding at the same time as a surge of demand for statutory services such as adult social care and supporting vulnerable children. It has resulted in residents seeing other services cut while council taxes rise as local authorities attempted to meet the shortfall.
The Local Government Association has warned today that communities can expect the loss of leisure facilities, fewer bus services and reduced upkeep of parks and green spaces unless the Government changes its approach in the forthcoming Spending Review. The LGA is by no means the only organisation highlighting the challenges. A recent National Audit Office report recorded a 35 per cent drop in spending on cultural and related services alone last year by local authorities.
Although Brexit is currently dominating the political agenda, Mrs May will be all too aware how the issue of public service cutbacks came to dominate the 2017 election and contributed to her party losing its majority. History may soon repeat itself unless her Government can actually deliver on the pledge that she made so recently.