Councillors have expressed their disappointment at a lack of new funding to support local government in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. With many councils approaching the point where their financial sustainability is at risk, and recent LGA research indicating a council funding gap of £4bn over the next two years, councillors had hoped the Chancellor would announce measures to help ensure vital local services remain sustainable.
Council finances have come under increasing pressure in recent years as funding from the Government continues to fall, while demand for local services and the need for support among the most vulnerable residents has risen. Since 2021, eight councils have issued Section 114 notices stating that their required expenditure cannot be met from their available income and they are effectively bankrupt.
Councillor Paul Follows, Leader of Waverley Borough Council, said:
“The Government is in denial about the state of local government in this country. Like many of our residents I’m sure, we have really been squeezed by high inflation in our costs over the last couple of years and the increased workload of supporting our residents through a cost of living crisis. While Waverley is in a better position than many councils – and we are not in the position of having to consider making cuts to services – it is still extremely challenging to balance our budget.
“If you want to level up local communities, then councils need to deliver that agenda, and we also have our own ambitions to tackle climate change, build more affordable housing and support our local economies. None of this is possible without proper funding. It’s just such a missed opportunity and it’s incredibly frustrating.”
Councillor Mark Merryweather, Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets & Property, said:
“We’re always working hard to identify efficiency savings and are proactively developing our partnership with Guildford to reduce costs and help streamline our services, but after 13 years of funding cuts, there isn’t much fat left to trim. There’s no way the impact of the high inflation, increased demand for services and perpetual funding cuts can be offset by increases in Council Tax, so we need solutions from the Government who actually control so much of what we can do.
“It’s not just the absolute amount of funding that is the issue. We are now in our fifth consecutive single-year funding settlement from Government, which makes it almost impossible to invest or make long-term decisions, when we don’t know what our income will be in the future. The Chancellor needs to set out a package of financial measures that protects vital local services and gives councils the certainty to be able to invest in the future of their communities.”