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Over 40 MPs Urge The Government To Re-Think Local Authority Funding Plans

A large cohort of county MPs – including 44 Conservatives and seven former cabinet members within this group – have written to the Prime Minister urging his government to provide an emergency injection of funding for councils to prevent major reductions to local services.

The government is currently consulting on its final Local Government Finance Settlement, to be published next month. This will confirm how much funding councils in England will receive in 2024/25.

It follows November’s Autumn Statement, which provided no new funding for local authorities despite the County Councils Network (CCN) highlighting its members were under extreme financial pressure and set to overspend this year by £650m, with these councils facing a total £4bn funding deficit over three years. To compound this, the announcement of the National Living Wage has left those 37 councils over £230m worse off next year.

With local authorities now setting out significant service reductions in their budgets next year, the 46 MPs who have signed the letter say they are ‘exceptionally concerned’ that residents will be faced with a ‘double whammy’ of reductions in services and higher council tax rates in order for councils to deliver a balanced budget.

The group of MPs, include former Local Government Secretary of States Robert Jenrick and Greg Clark, as well as prominent former cabinet members such as Priti Patel, Therese Coffey, Damien Green, and Brandon Lewis. They also include former local government ministers Neil O’Brien, Heather Wheeler, Kit Malthouse, and Jake Berry.

They have called for the government to provide emergency funding for councils to prevent substantial cuts to local services, or worse, some authorities facing financial insolvency and unable to deliver a balanced budget in 2024/25.

In the letter, co-ordinated by CCN and the County All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) they say ‘There is still an opportunity to rectify the situation and ensure MPs are able to support the vote on the Local Government Settlement within the House of Commons in early February.

‘We would therefore urge you to do all you can to use the Final Local Government Finance Settlement to provide additional funding for local government to ensure that the councils in our areas can continue to provide the services that our residents depend upon on a regular basis.

…’As a fellow MP for a county area, we are sure that you will find the prospect of residents in county and rural areas being impacted in such a way at this time concerning.’

Out of the £650m projected overspend, 45% is down to pressures in children’s services, 25% is down to costs in adult social care, and 20% is attributable to rising demand in school transport services for SEN pupils. The signatories urge government to prioritise any additional funding to these three areas.

Following the letter being submitted, the CCN and the County APPG say they are having ‘constructive’ discussions with Downing Street but are urging the government to rectify the situation and announce additional funding as soon as possible.

Cllr Ben Bradley MP, Chair of the County All-Party Parliamentary Group, said:

“County and unitary councils across the country are currently setting out their budgets for next year, with many proposing substantial reductions to highly valued local services as well as tightening of eligibility for care services. With council tax set to rise again this year, residents face a double whammy. No council leader will take any pride in taking this action, but they simply have no choice after the Autumn Statement left them in a significantly worse position.

“The extent of the impact can be reduced if councils are given an emergency injection of funding, and 46 MPs have signed our letter calling on the government to intervene and protect local services. The fact that we have two former Local Government Secretaries, seven former cabinet members, and support from all three main parties shows the strength of feeling on this issue, particularly amongst my Conservative colleagues.

“I’m the privileged position of being both a council leader and MP and so I can see both sides. The Autumn Statement put more money in people’s pockets and I understand that the public finances are tight, but councils provide important local services that millions rely on each day. We have had constructive dialogue with Downing Street, but we are urging the government to rectify the situation as soon as possible so colleagues in the Parliamentary party are able to support the vote for the final Local Government Finance Settlement next month.”

Cllr Barry Lewis, Vice-Chair of the County Councils Network, added:

“We county leaders pride ourselves on being financially prudent and not afraid to make the difficult decisions but this year we find ourselves under financial pressure like never before. We desperately need government support to stave off the extent to which we will have to make unpalatable reductions to services.

“It is encouraging that an unprecedented number of county MPs, including those from all parts of the country, share our same concerns over the funding shortfall we face. We have had constructive discussions with ministers, but we now hope the government listens to our joint campaign and provides emergency resource later month.”

 

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