Headlines: June 20th, 2002

The Local Government Association (LGA) is stepping up pressure on Government to find significant new money for this year’s spending review, set for next month.The organisation is capitalising on the fact that public service reform and improvement – much of it delivered by local councils – is high on the Government’s agenda.

Together, councils are looking for more than 18 billion pounds annually, just to improve and maintain existing services. But they are also calling for a substantial capital investment to modernise. As examples of the sorts of extra sums sought, the LGA reckons transport is currently underfunded by at least 600 million pounds and that the police need one and a half billion pounds to make the kinds of improvements sought as part of their modernisation agenda.

The LGA is briefing senior advisors and ministers to ensure that despite the recent cabinet reshuffle, certain key areas are guaranteed the highest priority including education, social services, transport, and crime, while reinforcing the urgent need for more funding across the board.

Local authorities hold responsibility for finance and delivery of education, police, transport, fire, the environment, protective and cultural services, all of which require significant new money in order to deliver at current levels let alone deliver measurable improvements, says the LGA.

And it points out that although March’s budget saw an additional 360 million pounds a year for personal social services, this has been offset by the huge bill to councils as an employer – an estimated 280 million pounds extra cost to local authorities created by the National Insurance increase.

As examples of how services are declining rather than getting better it points out that last year nearly 30 per cent of councils made cuts to supported bus services in order to stay within budget