The main news this week is, of course, the announcements in the autumn statement. We have produced this summary of the key points for local government which is open to our members. Our analysis was picked up by the Financial Times and a growing number of other sources.
What does it mean for local councils? We will be producing a more detailed briefing in due course but the immediate news is that local authorities will be able to increase council tax from 2.99% to 4.99% without the need for a referendum. But we all know that council tax is a small proportion of our council budgets – even a doubling of it will do little to ameliorate the increasing costs of addressing social care.
LGIU Chief Executive Jonathan Carr-West said:
Additional money for social care would be welcome, but the vast majority of what was announced today is derived from delaying the Dilnot proposals and from increasing council tax flexibility. Both these measures simply kick the problem down the road. We’ve been doing that with social care for over a decade now and a regressive tax will hit the poorest the hardest and shift political liability from central to local government.
An ADASS survey reports this week that 94% of members believe that they have insufficient funding to meet the costs of care over the coming winter. Kent and Hampshire County Councils have sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister this week warning him that they may need to declare bankruptcy in the next few months.
The Autumn Statement does little to save councils from the impending economic crisis that is devouring our public services but councils will continue to deliver for their residents and seek new ways of doing so. We were inspired by the report that Telford & Wrekin has introduced bouncy pavements to generate electricity for charging phones.
The Autumn Statement has also brought the levelling up agenda back to the fore, with Michael Gove being brought back into the fold – here is the latest LGIU briefing on the subject. We’ve also refreshed our Levelling Up bundle, it’s packed full of resources and explorations of the levelling up agenda. A new LGIU briefing on levelling up, and what he public think about it, will be published in the coming days.
Housing refugees and asylum seekers
Following up on last week’s England round-up, even more councils are taking legal action against the UK government on the choice of hotels to accommodate asylum seekers. Westminster, Ipswich and East Riding of Yorkshire lost their case in the courts this week but a number of other councils are launching legal challenges. Why doesn’t the Home Office just engage with us – let’s all sit down and talk about it! An LGIU briefing on the matter is forthcoming.
On the Global Agenda, COP27 is rounding up and our Global Local bulletin this week focuses on what we’ve learned since last year and how local government especially has a role in leading real action on climate change.