Getting in early with the Government, we have set out and worked on Ministers and members of both Houses of Parliament to get our needs heard ahead of the Autumn Budget. The LGA submission on behalf of local government is based on your communications with us, through the work of the Boards and our offices. We have tested and backed up these requirements for a decent deal for local government in a series of discussions with Ministers and partner bodies.
We have also met with representatives from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to jointly promote devolution of powers and money to local government, not held up in Whitehall, Stormont, Cardiff Bay or Holyrood.
The key point is that our council budgets are now so tight that there is no room to cope with extra pressures. We need the current shortfall met (£5.8bn) and any new pressures also funded centrally.
When we first sought to swap our grants for business rates, albeit shared out more fairly, the overall money for local government would have been much the same, but with us more in control. As it is, the grants have been reduced or removed, and only half the business rates returned, leaving us seriously short, with local demands rising. We now need the other half, just to meet basic needs. The calculated shortfall is £5.8bn by 2019/20, plus £1.3bn to stabilise the carer market, £7.1bn in total.
Councils have cut their services, or passed them to other bodies, used up reserves, sold off assets, increased tax and charges and taken on commercial projects. Even with all this, some councils like Lincolnshire face a further £25m shortfall. That equates to a lot of staff and work that is currently being done.
Over 100 councils do not currently benefit from any support grant share, but do get specific payments. As things stand, some will even be required to contribute money to central government, a battle we are fighting under the fairer funding campaign. Our proposals are to enable councils to do more to work with government to improve lives for residents.
Your councils will have put in a submission by Thursday’s deadline.
Some key points of the LGA Budget submission:
The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is when making politically advantageous announcements. For example, it needs to fully fund the increase in national living wage and public sector pay, including fire and rescue reorganisation and also new fire protection on tower blocks.
We want the Government to bring forward a plan for adult care funding and for the Better Care Fund.
We're calling for a review of existing trade and investment and its effectiveness, and plan post Brexit, to work with councils on this.
We're also asking Government to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £2.
The Public Health grant needs to return to the 2015 level, when we took it on only with the proviso it was fully funded. Same with Concessionary fares.
The EU regeneration funding (£8.4bn total) must have a successor where local people set their own priorities.
We want to see 2p/litre of the existing fuel duty used to tackle the £12bn backlog on road repair.
We need an investment of £400m in sports facilities to keep our communities active and healthy. We need an investment fund for libraries. The Cultural Development Fund has been announced and plans are needed.
In regards to housing we want to see the borrowing cap lifted to enable councils to invest in affordable housing, as we can in other business ventures. We're calling on Government to allow councils to increase planning fees to recoup costs fairly and review resourcing of council investment in infrastructure. We also ask for powers to tackle business rate appeals and avoidance, calculated to be around £230m.
A single capital pot for schools is needed where councils can best join up fragmented resources.
We want cheaper capital available for councils tackling homelessness. We want to be able to adapt welfare to enable single people under 35 to live in single accommodation and exempt temporary accommodation from the benefit cap. The Government also needs to commit to fully funding the implementation of the new Homeless Reduction Act and incentivise landlords by allowing direct payments.
On devolution, the UK is now one of the most centralised economies in the Western World, with only 1.6 per cent of GDP raised in Council Tax, compared to 9.2 per cent in neighbouring countries. We are calling for Government to honour the current agreements and open further devolution to all councils, such as in housing, skills, infrastructure investment and tax-raising powers.
To help us improve transport the Government must balance national investment with local to help local prosperity. In the same vein, councils now subsidise concessionary fares by about £200m, and we need to return to full government funding. We also want the Bus Operator’s grant devolved to councils to improve services.
These issues are reflected in our lobbying work and will also be reflected in the LGA media releases. Also they may be reflected in your own council’s submission. You might want to use these issues as a basis for articles to the press or in your newsletters, demonstrating that you are at the heart of pushing for improvements in key areas that affect our residents.
Briefings are available on the above issues via the group office and you can join in the discussion through the think tanks. If you are yet to join one (or more) please do so.