Public toilets and pest control among biggest cuts to local council services

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Spending by councils in England on basic services such as public toilets, road safety and pest control has fallen as much as 40% since 2010.

Money for many local amenities, including parks and libraries, has also been cut by as much as quarter, according to a new investigation by the Press Association.

Hygiene and safety standards have been particularly badly hit, with budgets for tackling infectious diseases down by a half.

The findings come as households across England face the steepest rise in their council tax this decade, with bills going up today by an average of 3.1%.

Analysis by the Press Association shows:

• Spending on public toilets has dropped in real terms by almost a quarter (24%) since 2010, while budgets for road safety, including school crossing patrols, have fallen by almost a third (32%).

• Funding for leisure centres and theatres has dropped by 24%, while money for parks and libraries has fallen 22%.

• Money for the upkeep of main roads has dropped 17% while spending on winter transport services, such as gritting, has fallen by a third.

• Even bigger cuts have been made to spending on pest control (down 40%) and infectious diseases, which has dropped over a half (52%).

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “At a time when every part of the public sector is making savings, local government must play its part. Councils will still have almost £200 billion to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament.

“They also have more freedom over how they allocate their resources to meet local needs, while devolution deals mean we’re transferring greater powers than ever before from Whitehall to town halls. It means public satisfaction with local services has remained high, while councils have made efficiency savings.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the figures reflect “difficult decisions” councils have made to “try and protect residents from the impact of cuts to core government funding”.

A spokesman added: “Councils are increasingly having to do more with less and to try and protect services.

“This means having less to spend on many of the other services people value, such as filling potholes and funding leisure facilities like pools, gyms and parks, libraries and museums.”

Since 2010, councils have seen a 40% real-terms drop in the size of their grants from central government.

This has led many authorities to cut funding not just for amenities but also for emergency services, with spending on firefighting down 11% and police services down 15%.

A few areas have seen a rise in spending, however, including the budget for bridges (up 5%), waste disposal (up 11%) and coastal defences (up 14%).

In addition, new rules mean that from today some local authorities can increase council tax bills by an extra 2% to help fund adult social care.

The LGA has welcomed this change, but predicted further cuts to local services will come. “The next few years will continue to be a challenge,” the spokesman added.

Environment and regulation

Water safety: down 11%

Public conveniences: down 24%

Health and safety: down 25%

Food safety: down 27%

Pest control: down 40%

Animal and public health, including infectious disease control: down 52%

Community safety

Coast protection: up 14%

Defences against flooding: down 6%

CCTV: down 9%

Crime reduction: down 37%

Waste management

Waste disposal: up 11%

Recycling: down 8%

Waste collection: down 17%

Culture, recreation and sport

Museums and galleries: down 21%

Community centres and public halls: down 22%

Libraries: down 22%

Sports and recreation facilities, including golf courses: down 24%

Theatres and public entertainment: down 24%

Transport and road safety

Maintenance of bridges: up 5%

Street lighting (including energy costs): down 1%

Concessionary fares: down 10%

Support for bus service operators: down 11%

Structural maintenance - main roads: down 17%

Road safety education and safe routes (including school crossing patrols): down 32%

Winter service: down 33%

Support for rail service operators: down 63%

Emergency services

Fire fighting and rescue operations: down 11%

Police services: down 15%

Community fire safety: down 18%

Homelessness

Homelessness support: up 9%

Private managed accommodation leased by the council: up 43%

Homelessness prevention: up 72%

Bed/breakfast accommodation: up 122%

Other nightly paid, privately managed accommodation: up 498%