Counties have played their part in the national austerity drive, making unprecedented efficiencies whilst transforming public services. They have shown themselves to be the most efficient part of the public sector, spending just 3% on back-office costs, ensuring the frontline is protected and services retain their high quality.
At the same time, counties receive lower levels of funding for key services than any other local authority type, including social care, county schools, and children’s services, despite withstanding the most acute pressures for these services. This has resulted in residents paying higher council tax in rural areas as county leaders look to make up the shortfall. A key pillar in CCN’s campaigning over the next year will be to ensure the Government’s fair funding review proceeds and that it produces a fairer deal for our counties.
With no mention of business rates legislation in the 2017 Queen’s Speech, its future is unclear. However, there may still be opportunities to consider elements of the reform which could provide some freedoms to local government. CCN will be working with other key thinkers and influencers to understand which fiscal freedoms and incentives could still be made available to local government, to facilitate growth and effective services. At the same time, the network is calling for a package of devolved growth powers as part of full business rate retention which will empower counties to drive their own economic destiny.