Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGIU, said: “Today’s statement was a bleak account of the nation’s finances and a tightening of Whitehall’s centralising grip.
The Chancellor announced a 4.5% increase in spending power for local government. Given the economic crisis councils are facing an increase in spending power is welcome and essential but let’s be clear that it comes predominantly from council tax increases and the social care precept. The political and economic risk all sits on local government. There is no gift from the centre.
As always, there’s not nearly enough for social care. Pay rises for doctors and nurses are welcome and no one could begrudge them after the 2020 they’ve had, but care workers have also had a horrific year. By deepening the chasm between NHS and social care, we will exacerbate the staffing challenge many areas already have and create further pressure for the health service in the future.
When it comes to spending, the centralising tendency of the British state is on full display. The £4 bn levelling up fund is to be administered by the Treasury, MHCLG and Department for Transport. Local areas will bid against each other and Whitehall will pick the winners. Proposals must have the support of their MP, but local government doesn’t seem to be part of the picture.
It’s also not clear what role, if any, local government will play in the new £3bn Restart Scheme. This goes to the hearts of the scheme’s efficacy.
A key lesson of the pandemic has been about the often unbridgeable gap between central government intention and delivery on the ground. If you want to rebuild local economies, reboot local services and boost local employment you need local leadership and local delivery. You can’t manage everything from the centre. That lesson seems to have been ignored today.”
Our response from LGIU Scotland to the Chancellor’s Spending Review can be found here.
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