Headlines: October 15th, 2007

Some local authorities will struggle with the latest efficiency savings targets, according to analysis from the Local Government Information Unit. It says, though, that the Comprehensive Spending Review does present opportunities for local government but there must be a move to greater devolution.

The LGIU said the Review and the pre-budget report was never going to contain big surprises but it did flesh out some details and underline the Government’s direction in relation to continuing public service reform. The spending figures for local government, it said, were challenging, to say the least, particularly the three per cent cashable efficiency target. Although councils had been the most successful area of the public sector in achieving the targets set out in the Gershon review, more was now expected and not all authorities were in the same position and some would struggle with a target that ignored what efficiencies they had already achieved or how hard stretched some services were.

The analysis goes on to suggest that the Spending Review does present local authorities with opportunities such as supplementary business rates and the message on mainstreaming of ring-fenced funding and reduction of performance indicators. But it says with spending slowing down at the same time as public expectations are rising and the challenges of an ageing population, devolution was the key. Local government, the LGIU said, could deliver and had shown innovation in joint working and shared services. Performance had improved but more positive moves towards devolution, especially around financial reform, were now essential.