Tag Archives: local government finance

Sure Start and the big picture: bidding farewell to Children’s Centres in Norfolk

Norfolk County Council passed its budget earlier in the month. Nothing remarkable about that – councils up and down the land have been doing the same. In Norfolk, though, it marked the final act in an intense debate about how the Council supports new families and gives children a fair start in life. It’s a debate that has exposed some of the rawest edges of today’s politics.

Sure Start was a noble idea from the first Blair government: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto described it as one of the Labour government’s greatest achievements. It aimed to deliver support to children from disadvantaged families by breaking down the barriers they face when accessing services. Children’s Centres were at the heart of the ‘offer’. A network of one-stop shops where families could find a range of support. Support that would ensure children were well looked after, their health needs met and they were equipped to learn and develop as they headed towards their school years. Changes to the funding regime introduced by the Coalition saw funding for Children’s Centres cut by almost £1 billion across that government’s term. The argument in favour of that change was that Children’s Centres are an inefficient way of supporting families that are most in need and that it makes more sense to have a flexible provision that can be better targeted and so deliver good outcomes and better value for money.

In the end, Norfolk County Council voted to close 38 of its 53 Children’s Centres and to halve the budget for the services that had been delivered through them. Time will tell whether I was right in warning that the £1 million cut in funding for front line service delivery is storing up trouble for the future – I sincerely hope I am wrong. What I learned from the months of debate, though, went well beyond the question of how best to deliver early help for families.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Is the next crisis in local government finance just a Brexit-induced slump away?

As the Central Government grant to Local Government has been reduced towards nil, we’ve all seen the impact. A retreat from non-statutory services, such as buses and libraries, cuts to grants for the voluntary sector who, ironically, have done more than most to cushion the blow to residents of earlier cuts, and attempts to devolve services to the Cinderella tier of local government that is Town and Parish Councils.

In an attempt to stem the tide, local councils have sought to generate income by borrowing at current historically low rates of interest to invest in commercial property. Unfortunately, suspicion is growing …

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

Is austerity ending?

Cllr Tim Pickstone, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners (ALDC) Chief Executive, provides the local government perspective.

For the Prime Minister, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to announce, as they both have in recent weeks, that austerity is ending is an insult to everyone involved in local government.

As all ALDC members will be too painfully aware, funding for local government has been cut by almost 60% since 2010 and there’s further reductions to come too (and let us not forget that local government cuts were happening pre-2010 too).

The reality of this squeeze on local services is …

Posted in Op-eds | 20 Comments

All Party Parliamentary Group on Land Value Capture calls for urgent action on housing crisis

Tacking the housing crisis requires a concerted cross-party effort at all levels of government from Downing Street to the parish council.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report Capturing Land Value for the Public Benefit to be published on 31st October 2018 says:

There needs to be greater devolution of Land Value Capture mechanisms to mayoral and local authorities. Following the announcement by the Prime Minister of the government’s intention to remove the cap on local authority borrowing, consideration should be given to a netting of land assets from existing prudential borrowing limits; reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act, to provide

Posted in News | Also tagged | 8 Comments

An American solution to the second home problem?

Last month, campaigners near where I live won a by-election where the key issue was that of second home owners and their impact on local communities and services.

This weekend, I’m spending a few days in Rhode Island, home of the chicken, and enjoying the tranquility of the shoreline near the Massachusetts border. Whilst doing so, I’ve been discussing some of the issues surrounding how you maintain healthy rural communities, especially in places popular as holiday destinations. As you do, right?

One of the challenges is how you ensure that local workers, whose salaries are often far lower than those seeking to …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

The decline of local journalism may mean more than just a lack of transparency…

Amidst the drama of Brexit, the Guardian covered a report from the US which may well have gone unnoticed by many. “Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Local Newspaper Closures on Public Finance.”, published by academics from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago on 8 May, might not, on the face of it, seem of great import, but I would suggest that it gives those of us who care about local government some cause for concern.

The authors summarise their report as follows;

The loss of monitoring that results from newspaper closures is associated

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

How to pay for local services?

For many years now, governments of all political colours have seen fit to centralise more and more powers to themselves. The result of this has impacted directly on the councils that once were the major providers of services that have improved the lives for generations of our citizens. Today, they are a shadow of their former selves, whose lack of influence is clearly reflected in poor turnouts in local elections.

There have been promises to reverse the centralisation of powers and to devolve many of the powers back from where they have been taken over many years. So far, progress has been painfully slow.

Whatever services that remain the responsibility of local government must still be paid for. Traditionally the bulk of the funding came from central government grant, based on a formula devised and administered in Whitehall. The rest (around 30%) came from revenue and a smaller contribution from the recipients of those services via the Council Tax.

The strains are now really beginning to show. The 2010-2015 Coalition Government used its austerity programme to cut its central grant progressively and used the so called ‘Council Tax Freeze Grant’ to bribe councils not to raise Council Tax, at least not above 2%. The result was that a council like Lincolnshire that accepted the grant was forced massively to reduce its staff and many of the services it provided, libraries being just one example, in an attempt to protect Frontline Services such as Adult Social Care. Interestingly, had the County not accepted the grant but had raised Council Tax by 1.99% for the duration of the grant, it would now be around £30 million better off.

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

Local Government doing less to achieve more

Darlington Borough Council is skint. One of the smallest local authorities in the country, Darlington was created as a Unitary Authority in 1997. Since then, it has been governed (like many Northern councils) exclusively by Labour, and it now stands on the verge of bankruptcy (the two facts may not be unrelated).

Specifically, the Council have calculated the need for £12.5m in spending cuts over the next four years. To go: Darlington’s historic indoor market, the public library (both of which were donated to the town by the Pease family), the town centre’s Christmas lights and floral displays, several children’s centres, and multiple other social, environmental and cultural services. Streets will be swept less frequently. Charges will be introduced for blue badge holders.

Are these cuts to local services best blamed on central government, with its reduction in funding for local authorities, or on incompetent and profligate local councils? Certainly, cuts in central government funding have been made, with the provision of local services affected; certainly, other local authorities facing similar cuts are not broke. The truth of the matter is probably somewhere between the two!

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

David Cameron is hoist with his own petard

Hat-tip to Peter Black for inspiring the title

Here below is some fascinating reading. First, a letter which David Cameron sent to the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council (bearing in mind the PM’s constituency of Witney is in Oxfordshire) and then the reply he got.

Via, it seems, a somewhat incautious researcher or adviser, Mr Cameron reveals an extraordinary ignorance of local government finance, coupled with remarkable arrogance.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 16 Comments

“Lib Dems veto Pickles’ Council Tax cuts”

From the FT:

One of the government’s main tax-cutting drives has been to encourage councils to keep tax rises to a minimum. Ministers have done this in two ways: firstly, by giving councils a cash incentive to freeze council tax; and secondly, by forcing any council that wants to raise tax by 2 per cent or more to put it to a local referendum.

Of course, any self-respecting council is going to set a rate that’s just below the threshold. Eric Pickles was not chuffed and wanted to lower that threshold to 1.5%.

He did not get his way, thanks to the …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 28 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes: Setting our cities free from the stranglehold of the Treasury

City Hall and Tower BridgeReforming local government finance – a phrase that is enough to send many of us to sleep.  But put a different way, devolving financial powers to our great cities, allowing local innovation and genuine localism, may keep your interest for longer!

May saw the launch of an excellent policy report called Raising the capital.  The report was produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, but crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester.  The commission was chaired by respected Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

Next week in the Lords: 8-11 October

Yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the House of Lords is back! And whilst I get to spend less time with my wife, legislation awaits. Will the death of Lords Reform change anything on the red benches? Just what are they going to discuss without it?

There are three Bills carried forward from before the summer recess;

As a gentle loosener after a summer of grouse shooting, light naps and memoir writing, Monday sees Day 6 of the Committee Stage of the Financial Services Bill, perhaps now …

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , , , , , , and | Leave a comment
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 19th Apr - 1:34am
    I agree with Caron. Extinction Rebellion are earning themselves and their cause a reputation for irresponsibility and lack of concern for the public. Getting media...
  • User AvatarDavid-1 19th Apr - 12:54am
    People take to the streets in protest for whatever cause they may have, not because they are thoughtless and undisciplined, or because they just like...
  • User AvatarGlenn 19th Apr - 12:26am
    Roland Remain is a valid form of Leave! Yeah and dogs are a valid form of cats and eating meat is a valid form of...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 18th Apr - 11:53pm
    For once in a while, I think you are so so wrong, Caron. The word extinction is not an exaggeration. so what are you going...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 18th Apr - 11:48pm
    Elliott Dodds would approve! (I suppose I would too though it would have saved me a load of grief.)
  • User AvatarMichael Sammon 18th Apr - 11:31pm
    I think this is a good article. I can't get behind Extinction R. The way they are behaving goes against a democratic principle. It just...