Commenting on the Chancellor’s Spring Statement 2018, Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:
“The Spring Statement delivered some good news for the places in the United Kingdom about which announcements were made on housing, the environment and infrastructure. The Government seems determined to address the housebuilding crisis with a number of measures and initiatives to stimulate investment. However the absence of building schemes by councils for purely social rent will mean that the lack of affordable housing for young people and key workers will remain, and homelessness likely to continue.
“It did not however acknowledge that the financial pressures on councils have been exacerbated following the increase in council tax and social care precepts in the last few budgets. There is some irony that since the last budget, it’s Conservative led County Councils who are feeling the most pain with Northamptonshire’s well publicised problems and the challenges facing many others who have already increased their council tax or precept by the maximum amount.
“The growing crisis in children’s services remains unaddressed and, for many councils, the lack of government support until 2019/20 at the earliest feels like a lost opportunity. On Sunday, the Chancellor praised the way councils had addressed the challenges of austerity but as the National Audit Office’s report on councils’ financial sustainability showed last week, local government finances are in a parlous state.
“The Fair Funding review and business rates retention are a recipe for confusion, conflict and chaos. The Government needs to get a grip of local government funding and commit to understanding the medium and long term challenges better. The next planned Spending Review in 2020 needs to resolve local government finance for a generation but in the meantime the 2019/20 settlement needs to recognise the scale of the challenges currently facing councils, which have been clearly articulated by the Local Government Association.
“The sector needs to respond in a way that is joined up and grown up and focused on how best to continue to deliver our vital public services. If this doesn’t happen, Northamptonshire’s financial struggles could be the first of many.”