The government used the review to announce an extra £1.5bn in funds for councils to address Coronavirus-related costs next year, alongside compensation of up to 75% lost income from business rates and council tax owing to the virus. The County Councils Network had argued strongly for both. In addition, an extra £300m was announced for children’s and adults social care.
Below, the CCN responds to the main announcements regarding local government.
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said:
“This Spending Review will always be remembered as the one with Coronavirus as its prime focus. The County Councils Network (CCN) has strongly argued the case for funding to meet additional costs created by the pandemic next year, and the £1.55bn of additional funds for councils is very welcome, as is the £300m for adults and children’s social care.
“The CCN has long called for an income guarantee to compensate for losses in council tax and business rates income, and we strongly welcome today’s establishment of a compensation scheme at the 75% rate we specifically called for.
“Today’s announcement will ease the burden on councils next year, especially in relation to the continuing costs of the Coronavirus. But there is an onus on local authorities raising more from council tax to fund their social care costs, and with councils facing an underlying funding shortfall before the pandemic, they still face some difficult decisions next year on what services to reduce.
“We will now be looking to the Local Government Finance Settlement for a fair allocation of resources which fully recognises county authorities’ pressures arising from Coronavirus and does not unduly penalise those councils if they choose to levy the social care precept.”
In addition, the government also announced its intention to move forward with the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, with further details to come in the spring, and announced a £4bn ‘Levelling-Up Fund that local areas can make bids for money to unlock infrastructure projects.
The government also announced it was to make available £1.7bn next year for pothole repairs and road maintenance – with the distribution yet to be revealed.
Cllr Barry Lewis, economic growth spokesperson for the County Councils Network and leader of Derbyshire County Council, said:
“County areas are home to some our most left behind communities, from deprived towns, rural and coastal communities, to former manufacturing hotbeds. Two of today’s flagship announcements of the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund and the National Infrastructure Strategy could get right to heart of addressing infrastructure and employment issues as long as they get to the areas that need levelling-up the most.
“Counties received the biggest slice of current tranche of the EU’s Structural Funds in England and it is imperative that our member councils do not lose out under its replacement. In both this fund, and the Levelling-Up Fund, county authorities should lead bids and negotiations as they have the ability bring everyone round the table and commit significant sums of money to unlock the big infrastructure projects that will be game-changers for local areas.
“The announcement to bring forward planned pothole funding is very welcome. This funding should be distributed on the same per-mile basis as earlier tranches of this pot, so that left-behind towns and rural areas that have not benefitted from generous infrastructure funding in years gone by get a fair share of resources.”