The County Councils Network, (CCN) which represents England’s largest councils, said that county authorities will be ‘bitterly disappointed’ by the announcement. CCN are warning the absence of additional funding leaves its councils with ‘no choice but to implement more severe reductions to services and to levy higher council tax rises’, while ‘an increasing number of local authorities will struggle to deliver a balanced budget next year’.
In the lead up to today’s announcement, the CCN had warned that its member councils were in a significantly worse’ financial position than before the Autumn Statement, with a survey revealing that its local authorities now plan more severe cuts and seven in ten were no longer confident they can balance their budget next year – up from four in ten in September.
In a joint letter outlining their concerns on 6th December, 33 county leaders of those councils had written to Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove outlining that failure to rectify the situation at this provisional local government settlement and provide additional funding for children’s services would mean councils are likely to face the prospect of outlining painful reductions to frontline services, raising council tax to the maximum permitted and using reserves – leaving them at unsustainable levels – to balance budgets.
Despite these warnings and several meetings with Ministers over recent days, today’s settlement provides no additional funding beyond adult social care funding already announced in last year’s Autumn Statement, alongside the ability to levy council tax increases of up to 4.99% without a referendum.
Responding to the announcement, Cllr Barry Lewis, Finance Spokesperson and Vice-Chairman of the CCN said;
“The announcement of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement today will be bitterly disappointing for England’s county authorities. The County Councils Network (CCN) had put together a strong case for emergency funding next year to address the significant financial headwinds councils face which are outside of our control. But despite constructive discussions with ministers over recent days the government has chosen not to act.
“With no additional funding announced, our councils will have no choice but to implement more severe reductions to services and to levy higher council tax rises. This will undoubtedly be a double whammy for residents during a cost of living crisis, while an increasing number of local authorities will struggle to deliver a balanced budget next year.
“We know that government finances are tight, but there is a value in investing in public services, so we will now be making our case to county MPs ahead of the parliamentary vote on the final local government settlement to ensure that they are aware of the extent to which highly valued local services will have to be cut next year unless further funding is provided.”