THE council responsible for England’s largest county is calling on the Government for “clear and positive” action to meet “escalating” demand for services after it emerged that a long-awaited spending review would not now happen.
Chancellor Sajid Javid announced last week that the comprehensive spending review due in 2019 would be postponed, amid growing speculation that a general election could be just weeks away.
The reviews usually allocate spending for a two to four-year period and help councils plan budgets well ahead – ever more important given the massive cuts in spending power local government has suffered in recent years.
North Yorkshire County Council said the Government had to help meet increasing pressures - including the huge demands of adult social care and funding youngsters with special educational needs - to prevent others services being “crushed”.
In North Yorkshire alone, by 2021/22 the council will have made around £200 million in savings - an overall reduction of nearly 40 per cent in its spending power since 2011.
The council’s chief executive Richard Flinton said it was “unsurprising” with a new Government in place that there was not going to be a comprehensive spending review.
But there was “a real risk in the announcement of a one-year review if the Government does not use this opportunity to address the serious pressures that we face”, he added.
He said: “Firstly, the Chancellor needs to provide the individual grants that Government has made over recent years to apply sticking plasters to funding problems on a continuous basis.
“However, it also needs to go beyond that to help local government manage the continuously increasing pressures on our budgets and services.”
The authority spends about 40 per cent of its budget – almost £250m – on public health and adult social care and demand is rising with growing numbers of older people requiring more expensive packages of support.
There has also been a big increase in the numbers of young people with special education needs who need support leading to a £5.5m high needs overspend in the current financial year.
Mr Flinton said: “Councils need to be funded adequately for this growth in order to ensure that young people can have their needs met and the opportunities that they deserve without other local services being crushed by this escalating demand.”
Hull Council leader Steve Brady believes the one-year deal “is because there’s an election looming”. It could be “a generous one-year budget settlement - knowing it’s for only one year and they can soon change it,” he added.
Historically about 70 per cent of itsmoney comes from the Government and the rest from council tax. He said: “It’s very difficult to start budgeting properly when there has been no indication what the settlement would be. Normally you get to know - we have had no indications whatsoever.”
The Government has said a one-year review in September will allow departments to focus on delivering Brexit by October 31.
Speaking last week Mr Javid said he had asked for a fast-tracked spending round which will "clear the ground ahead of Brexit while delivering on people’s priorities".