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News release

Autumn Budget 2018: Paul Dossett – Local Government

Paul Dossett, Head of Local Government commented:

“The Chancellor took the opportunity offered by improved public finances to direct spending at a number of public services. But instead of meaningful long term preventative solutions, we were offered a large number of short term solutions with no clear commitment to future sustainability.

“The proposed changes to Universal Credit will offer short term support to “at risk” claimants but this is merely a holding measure. The root causes of the issues with the system remain and have just been kicked further down the road. If the narrative that Universal Credit is damaging to families continues to be proven, the changes could feedback negatively and result in additional costs for councils in the need for adults and children’s social care.

“The £650m for adult social care in 2019/20 is a welcome recognition of the increasing demand and growing funding crisis in this area. It is even more welcome that this money appears to be grant funding as opposed to council tax, which would have only widened the current inequality seen in the distribution of funds. But demand for this service means that this cost will continue every year for at least a decade. So while this funding may allow a year’s relief, the upcoming Green Paper and Spending Review need to resolve the longer term policy and tax issues at root or we risk seeing services collapse.

“It was a surprise not to see additional grants for children’s services given the recent increase in demand, which now surpasses that of adult social care. With 81% of councils with a responsibility for social care overspending on their children’s services budget in 2016/17, this was a missed opportunity for government to provide much needed support to struggling councils.

“The extra boost for mental health services was another indication of a “sticking plaster” mentality – rather than an investment in prevention. Most measures proposed, like mental health ambulances and more support for A&E departments seem to frame spending on crisis and high acuity. Many mental health experts regard crisis support as important, but earlier help even more critical.

“It is clear that local public services have declined, with potholes as a symbol which resonates with the public, and while emergency funding has been provided and is welcomed, it is not a panacea. With only short term holding measures introduced today, the Spending Review 2019 will now be heavily scrutinised to see whether it passes the long term sustainability test.”