The proposed reductions in public spending are right at the top end of the scenarios that had been considered by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. Steve Freer, Chief Executive of CIPFA expressed relief that there is now a clear set of proposals to rebalance public finances, but voiced the concern of the Institute that the Government is being very ambitious in attempting to tackle this challenge in a single Parliament.
This view is echoed by Dame Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, who said: “This is a very tough Budget that will have far-reaching effects. Councils provide vital front line services upon which millions of people rely. Ministers need to recognise that council services such as adult social care and safeguarding children are as important to residents as services such as education and health when the Government makes detailed decisions on spending in the autumn.
The New Local Government Network shares the view that this is the toughest budget for decades and lays out the scale of the task facing local government in balancing the books. It also believes that the scale of the cuts poses a serious challenge to councils’ ability to deliver services that meet the expectations of citizens over the coming five years and beyond.
The NLGN argues that services must be radically re-engineered in order to meet these savings without jeopardising front-line services. This will require greater flexibility from the centre and across other public services so that duplication and waste can be cut.
The NLGN is concerned that the Budget does not mention the Total Place initiative, which opened up many of the avenues for savings and efficiencies that can be utilised to make the savings Whitehall requires. It has called on Communities and Local Government and the Treasury to commit to ensuring that lessons learned from the initiative are not lost and that the potential of Total Place is taken forward across the public sector.