Budget 2024: CCN response

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2024 | 06 March 2024

Today, the Chancellor outlined his Budget proposals for the next financial year, including forecasts on public spending for 2025/26 and beyond.

In January, the government provided councils with a further £600m for the next financial year, following intense lobbying by the County Councils Network (CCN) and County MPs. Today’s Budget restated that alongside providing this funding, councils will be expected to submit Productivity Plans by July to ‘reduce wasteful expenditure’.

The Chancellor also announced that there will be an Extension of the Household Support Fund, distributed by councils for those requiring support with the cost-of-living, for the next financial year. There was no other major new funding announcements for councils beyond confirmation that public spending will still rise by 1% in the next parliament.

Responding to the Budget announcements, Cllr Barry Lewis, CCN Vice Chair and Spokesperson for Finance said,

“The recent announcement of an extra £600m for local government was a very important and welcome intervention by the Chancellor, giving councils vital breathing space for this year. However, the County Councils Network (CCN) always recognised that this was a short-term measure, and doesn’t address the medium-term financial pressures facing councils – which remain extremely challenging.

“While the government have maintained the 1% growth in public spending in 2025/26 and beyond this would still mean a squeeze on unprotected public services, including local government. If this was implemented, this would be concerning for our members, with CCN analysis showing that even if our councils deliver a further £1bn of planned savings over the next two years, they would still face a collective funding shortfall of £1.1bn.

“After almost a decade of reduced funding, the Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have placed further untold strain on already stretched budgets. While we welcome today’s announcements on supporting councils to reduce costs in children’s care placements and investment in more special school places, there is no more fat to cut and productivity gains can only get us so far. CCN member councils will not be able to withstand further funding reductions in the next parliament without fundamentally undermining the financial solvency of even the most well-run and efficient councils.    

“As we lead up to the general election, it is imperative that all political parties set out how they will provide a long-term, sustainable funding settlement for councils and reform council finances, including providing more freedoms and flexibilities to raise local revenues. This must be coupled with a more comprehensive reform programme in children’s social care, school transport and special educational needs services to help councils more effectively manage demand and drive down costs.

“The announcement of an extension to the Household Support Fund is welcome. This responds to advocacy from across the sector and will be a relief to those receiving this vital support. County authorities will continue to work with their local partners to ensure the fund is targeted and distributed to those most in need.”