LGA responds to Budget 2016
17 Mar 2016 10:49 AM
Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, responds to the Chancellor's Budget announced yesterday.
"It is right that the Chancellor has recognised the funding pressures facing councils and local services over the next few years and has not announced any more cuts to local government.
"Councils now need a period of financial stability and consistency so they can plan for the pressures facing local services which lie ahead over the next few years and need to be protected from any more funding cuts during this Parliament. This, alongside greater power to run local services, is essential.
"Devolution deals agreed yesterday are good news for councils which have worked hard to get them in place and rightly recognise the economic potential of England's county and rural areas. A total of 34 devolution proposals – from cities, towns and counties - have been submitted across England. To build desperately-needed homes, create jobs, provide the dignified care for our elderly and boost economic growth, all councils need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area. These new deals and extensions to existing deals must signal a return to the early momentum in which similar deals were announced last year. This will clearly require different approaches for different areas, including how they are governed.
"It is disappointing that the Chancellor has not accepted calls by councils, the NHS, care providers and the voluntary sector to bring forward the £700 million of new money in the Better Care Fund by 2019/20 to this year. The failure to do so means vulnerable members of the community still face an uncertain future where the dignified care and support they deserve, such as help getting dressed, fed or getting out and about, remains at risk. Vital social care services will also increasingly be unable to help ease the growing pressure on the NHS and the threat of a care home crisis will creep closer to becoming a reality.
"The LGA also reiterates our opposition to forced academisation of schools. It's vital that we concentrate on the quality of education and a school's ability to deliver the best results for children, rather than on the legal status of a school, to make sure that we're providing the education and support needed in each area.
"Allowing local government to keep 100 per cent of business rates is key and is something the LGA has been campaigning to achieve for the last decade. While it won't in itself solve the long-term challenges facing councils and local services, allowing local government to retain 100 per cent of its business rates income is now vital. Pilots announced today are an important first step, although it will be important to avoid a knock-on financial impact on other councils, and local government will rightly need to play a lead role in making sure any new national system works effectively and fairly."