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Higher Council Tax bills and poorer public services are on the cards if the Government doesn’t address the ‘long overdue’ issue of local government funding reform, says a leading campaign group.
The stark warning comes from a cross party group of the lowest funded councils across the country – known as F20 – in its response to the Government’s latest local government finance settlement.
The group has been lobbying the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) to inject extra money to support the very lowest funded authorities in the country.
Now, in a frank letter, council leaders express extreme disappointment that funding reforms, first announced in 2016, have been delayed again and call on the Government to grasp the nettle so that all councils can continue to deliver good services.
Leader of Warrington Borough Council, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “Local government was never a protected area during the austerity years – some estimate that councils have been collectively subject to £15 billion real-terms funding cuts.
“Alongside this, the Covid pandemic, rises in inflation fuelling the costs of living and war in Ukraine have all put our services under growing pressure. These services are vital to support vulnerable people but we must be able to keep the services all residents benefit from, such as roads maintenance, flooding prevention, schools and waste and recycling centres, too.
“The autumn statement brought some good news for councils, but fundamental change is needed now more than ever.”
Deputy Leader and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Cathy Mitchell, said: “Warrington is one of the lowest funded councils in the country and, like the other F20 authorities, finds these budget pressures incredibly challenging as we work to maintain our essential services.
“Each year, costs are rising at a higher rate than funding. There is only so far authorities like Warrington can go to balance budgets and we are asking Government to address the current funding discrepancies for low-funded councils.”
F20 has set out a short-term, temporary fix which would see Government put in an extra £300 million to level up local government finance. This would benefit the F20 councils which have low levels of core spending power, compared to better funded councils.