Author Archives: Howard Sykes

Conference Countdown: What local government needs from the Queen’s Speech

In last week’s spending review, we saw yet more smoke and mirrors.  Just half of the promised £3.7bn is new cash and £1.85bn will be coming from pockets of hard-pressed council tax and business rate taxpayers who are at breaking point. 

The money announced will help meet rising cost and demand pressures in 2020/21.  But not much more.

As I have said time and time again additional freedoms and flexibilities are all very well, but its new hard cash that local government needs.  This must be backed up a commitment that is not just for 12 months, but a sustainable three year plus funding settlement.  

You cannot keep kicking the “social care can” down the road, politicians have promised for more than 20 years and have still not delivered a way forward.

Equally so the crisis in children’s services keep being papered over and deferred to another day.  Local government needs the security and reassurance of a long-term settlement. 

There was some cash for homelessness – again, welcome – but no mention of investment to tackle its underlying causes.

Nothing for social housing, nor an end to the benefit freeze that is creating widespread housing insecurity.  With the loss of yet another DWP minister who knows what is going to happen.

Councils across the country are reporting to us an increase in people accessing their homeless services and are spending £1bn a year putting families in temporary accommodation enough is enough.

We heard about a youth investment fund to build and repair youth clubs, but no details.  I will put money on it that it will probably amount to a mere sticking plaster on the wounds inflicted by austerity on local youth services.

And as we all have an eye on a General Election; which just like Winter in Game of Thrones most certainly is coming; our own party’s manifesto needs to rise to these challenges as well!

Next year’s Spending Review must provide the long-term, sustainable settlement councils need in order to protect services into the next decade and beyond.  But it isn’t all about money.

As part of the Local Government Associations ongoing #CouncilsCan campaign, the LGA is also calling for the next Queen’s Speech to deliver a new localism settlement for England.  This settlement will need to reignite devolution, empowering councils to transform local areas.

With new powers, funding and long-term certainty, councils will continue to lead their local areas and improve the lives of their residents.  Giving councils the freedom and funding to make local decisions improves national outcomes. 

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£8 billion funding black hole by 2025 will swallow up popular council services

Communities may suffer the loss of leisure and cultural facilities, fewer bus services, unkempt parks and green spaces and see fly-tippers go unpunished without government investment in under-pressure council services.

On Friday the cross-party Local Government Association launched its campaign to influence the forthcoming government Spending Review by warning about the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils.

However, the LGA said that, with the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead their local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services and save money for the taxpayer.

Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. 

Some councils are being pushed to the brink by this unprecedented loss of funding and an ongoing surge in demand for children’s services, adult social care services and homelessness support. This is on top of having to absorb other cost pressures, such as higher national insurance contributions, the apprenticeship levy and the National Living Wage.

More and more councils are struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts.

Councils provide more than 800 services to residents in their local area – some of these are legal duties they have to provide whilst others are optional powers they can use depending on local priorities.

Money is increasingly having to be diverted from these optional services, which help build communities people want to live in, to plug growing funding gaps, while some councils have already been forced to cut their services back to the legal minimum “core offer”. 

With councils in England facing an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, local government leaders fear many more will have to take similar action.

That could mean many cherished local – but discretionary – services such as the maintenance of parks, improving food hygiene and safety, certain bus services, cultural activities and council tax support for those in financial difficulty – face being drastically cut back by councils across the country.

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Children Self-harming figures are horrifying on eve of World Mental Health Day

What a week to be marking “World Mental Health Day” (Wednesday 10th October) as children’s mental health is yet again in the national headlines and reaffirming the scandal that it has become. It is shocking as we see ambulance call-outs for children suffering from mental health crises rising at a faster rate than for adults.

We see cases of drug overdoses, self-harming and other psychiatric conditions rising by over a third in the past five years. The number of adult cases has increased by 20%

Moreover, this came on the heels of a recent report that showed that more than a fifth of 14-year-old girls in the UK said they had self-harmed, a report released recently suggests.

A survey of 11,000 children found 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior to the questionnaire. As a parent of three children, two of the girls, I find this horrifying.

Ministers need to address the “crisis in children’s mental health” after a Children’s Society report revealed recently that around one in four 14-year-old girls self-harm.

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Social care is in crisis – the Tories must face up to it

In the last six months, more than one hundred home-based and residential care providers have ceased trading, affecting more than 5,300 people, as providers hand back contracts to more than sixty councils, affecting thousands of people. Social care faces a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025. Social care is in crisis and we have a government which is turning a blind eye to it.

Obsessed with Brexit, they have repeatedly ignored the challenge of social care and kicked it into the long grass. A long-delayed green paper on social care that was promised for June has yet again failed to materialise, along …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments
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