Councils play waiting game after Spending Review

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review to MPs in the House of Commons, London

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review to MPs in the House of Commons, London

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Local councils across Lancashire are bracing themselves for further possible cuts, following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review.

George Osborne announced on Wednesday that he could abandon the controversial tax credit cuts, and police funding will not be cut over the next four years.

South Ribble Councillor Warren Bennett

South Ribble Councillor Warren Bennett

But councils are still waiting to hear how they will be affected, when the local government settlement is announced next month.

Coun Warren Bennett, deputy leader of Conservative-run South Ribble Council, said: “As far as we are concerned as a borough council we are still awaiting the settlement next month. In respect of talking about devolving business rates to local councils, the devil is in the detail. From a borough council point of view it is very much a wait and see.”

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources at Labour-led Preston Council said: “The headline figures for the reductions in local government funding are about what we expected, now we just need to wait and see how it divides up for each council.

“Of course, in Preston, we’ve tended to fare worse than some others so we’re not counting any chickens.

Councillor Martyn Rawlinson

Councillor Martyn Rawlinson

“We appear to have built in enough reduction into our forecast, but until we get the actual detail we don’t know.”

He added: “In terms of local government it is still very grim.

“We won’t really know where we stand until we get the detail of the business rates retention scheme and that could be years away, so we are going to be treading water for years.

“It’s not good enough really - how are we expected to deliver quality services in that climate? Our forecast beyond one or two years is meaningless because we’ve no idea if we are going to be better off under the new business rates scheme or vastly worse off.”

Alistair Bradley

Alistair Bradley

Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “We expected the worst and we got the worst.

“They protected other areas of public services, but not local authorities which are going to see serious impacts on the services they can offer.

“The two per cent (increase in council tax to fund social care) - there’s no detail around that and that’s essentially asking residents to pay more.

“They are trying to pass the problem down the line.”
He added: “People who can look after themselves will still look after themselves, it’s the people who can’t look after themselves who will now have a problem and I don’t think that’s right.”