LGIU Response: What the 2022 Growth Plan means for local government
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) said:
“What does today’s mini-budget mean for local government? Like every other sector, local government is deeply invested in the nation’s prosperity. Both in relation to its own finances but also in the extent to which it needs to provide support to residents and the general well being of the populations it serves.
“The Chancellor set out a very clear statement of intent this morning: lower taxes, streamline regulation and get government out of the way for growth to follow.
“For local government, the most striking manifestation of this approach is the focus on new investment zones. It’s reassuring to see that these are being developed in consultation with local authorities but many questions remain. What will the governance arrangements for these zones look like and how will local democratic control be maintained? Is this really a locally driven process or is it the Government picking winners in place of developing a national growth strategy? Will the promised ‘expression of interest process’ really be open and transparent? What are the assessment criteria?
“Many in the sector will feel that they have seen elements of this approach before and will worry that it’s just another set of funding hoops to jump through.
“It’s also striking that, to an even greater degree than the devolution measures proposed in the Levelling Up Bill, the focus is on growth, infrastructure and investment incentives. All are important. But there’s nothing here about public service reform or democratic engagement and we know from the devolution deals of 2014/15 that if that’s not there from the beginning you end up needing to retrofit it later. What is the government’s vision for these?
“More fundamentally, local government will be worrying about its immediate financial viability. Councils are in crisis right now and a promise of future growth does not alleviate that. For more than a decade councils have taken on massive financial pain in the name of balancing the national books and reducing the deficit. These principles no longer seem to hold at a national level but councils still need to balance their books each and every year. Many are worried about their ability to do this and will be looking at today’s announcement and worrying that once again they have been left out and left behind.”
Read the On the day briefing