Is the local government finance settlement "fair"? Our feature writer, Suzanne Danon, explores opposing views...
Local government minister Kris Hopkins has insisted this week’s local government finance settlement, which will see councils face average spending cut powers of 1.8%, is fair and essential.
Announcing the plan Mr Hopkins said “very substantial” savings had to be made in public spending.
He added that the local government settlement is fair to all parts of the country, and every council should be able to “deliver sensible savings while protecting frontline services for local taxpayers.”
“We have been working to give hard working people greater financial security by taking action to keep Council Tax down,” he said. “There is extra money on the table for all councils which pledge to freeze Council Tax bills next year and we would urge them to take it to help their residents with the cost of living.
But Labour has slammed the announcement, claiming communities with the most need will be hit hardest.
Shadow local government Minister Hilary Benn said councils were being denied long-term budgets and the freedoms they needed to make “real long-term sustainable savings”. He warned that libraries, social care for the elderly and everyday council services such as bin collections and street cleaning would bear the brunt of the cuts.
“It is now clear that the government doesn’t have a plan for the future of local services”, Mr Benn said. “Labour would encourage further sharing of services to protect the frontline and keep the services residents rely on.”
The Local Government Association added that the real spending cut figure to councils would be 8.8%, with local services now facing huge financial challenges.
“Councils have spent the past four years finding billions of pounds worth of savings, while working hard to protect the services upon which people rely. But those same efficiency savings cannot be made again,” said Cllr David Sparks, chair of the LGA.
“The savings of more than £2.5bn councils need to find before April 2015 will be the most difficult yet. We cannot pretend that this will not have an impact on local government’s ability to improve people’s quality of life and support local businesses.”
Mr Hopkins insists councils will be left with considerable spending power. “As planned, we have kept the overall reduction to 1.8% - lower than last year and one of the lowest levels of reduction under this government.”
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