Every council requires money to finance the resources it needs to provide local public services. So, every councillor should take an interest in the way their council is funded and the financial decisions the council takes.
The legislation makes it clear that every councillor is responsible for the financial control and decision-making at their council. It gives a responsibility to every local authority to “make arrangements for the proper administration of their financial affairs”.
The Local Government Act 2000 also requires the full council to approve the council’s budget and council tax demand.
It is an important part of your role as an effective community leader and advocate to consider the council’s finance and funding as a central part of all decision-making, and to ensure that the council provides value for money, or best value, in all its services.
As there is unlikely to be sufficient money to do everything the council would wish to provide, because of funding gaps, councillors need to consider their priorities and objectives, and ensure that these drive the budget process. They should also consider how efficient the council is in providing services and obtaining the appropriate outcomes for all its services
Those serving on the executive have a responsibility to consider their service portfolio in the light of its budget position.
Councillors serving on overview and scrutiny also have an important role in reviewing the council’s finances regularly, and in considering the proposed annual budget.
In addition, every councillor will be concerned to ensure that services are delivered effectively in their local ward.
However, while councillors have an important role to play in the budget-setting process, it is recognised that they may not be financial experts.
Consequently, as part of its sector-led improvement offer, the LGA has produced a new e-learning module to assist you with this important aspect of your councillor role. This complements the recently updated workbook, ‘A councillor’s workbook on local government finance’.
This will provide you with the tools to better understand the budget-setting process, the strategic and vision-setting objectives of finance in a local authority, and demystify some of the commonly used terms and principles of local government finance.
New e-learning platform for councillors
Over the past year, as the LGA has delivered more of what we do online, we have recognised that our e-learning platform needs to offer a better learning experience for councillors.
As part of our enhanced programme of political leadership support – both during the pandemic and for the post-pandemic council landscape – we have added to our range of online learning modules, and will continue to do so to be responsive to the needs of local councillors.
We now have a new platform, which is easier to use and can be better customised to your needs, with easier-to-read text and improved graphics.
The platform – lga.kallidus-suite.com/external – is a place where councillors can enhance their knowledge and expertise, and ensure they have access to online leadership tools particularly relevant to supporting their vital community leadership role.