Councils are struggling to balance their books and the LGA predicts the funding gap will reach £8 billion by 2025. I believe the Fair Funding Review must recognise the changed nature of demand for council services, particularly adult and children’s social care (which, combined, account for about 70 per cent of expenditure). It is essential funding is allocated in a transparent, evidence-based manner.
Moreover, although the localisation of business rates is an important opportunity for the sector, it needs to reflect fully the true costs of the services that are transferred, while also incentivising local growth.
“It is essential that the Spending Review provides additional funding based on a proper evaluation of high-needs funding arrangements
The Spending Review is an opportunity to both put local government finance on a sustainable long-term footing and remove the unnecessary bureaucracy that councils face.
For instance, one of our major financial challenges is high-needs funding. While, in theory, the introduction of education, health and care plans will offer better joined-up support for children with special educational needs (SEND), there needs to be adequate funding to make this vision a reality.
The number of children with SEND statements has increased by 35 per cent since 2014 and more are now being educated outside of mainstream schools, which is, of course, much more expensive. Therefore, it is essential the Spending Review provides additional money based on a proper evaluation of high-needs funding arrangements, including home-to-school transport. We also need to look at why the increase has been so great and address these issues, such as the incentive for schools not to be inclusive.
Building on the success of the return of public health responsibilities to local government, I believe councils have shown they can make a real difference when they deliver key services locally, provided they are properly funded. A point I will continue to make in my meetings with government ministers across a range of departments.