Tag Archives: local government funding

Solving the crisis in Local Government

What’s the point of a Motion bemoaning a crisis but failing to suggest a solution?

Liberal Democrats have conferences to decide Party policy, not indulge in hand-wringing! Declaring that local government has a funding crisis without stating what we’d do about wastes our time and money as conference-goers. That’s why I’m asking for a reference back to FPC for F23 at York.

The Party last seriously debated local government  and its funding in 1998 – the year I co-founded ALTER. We’ve progressed since then but in 2019 we funked the big one: reform of Council Tax.

In the 1998 policy paper the most significant citation was a 1996 House of Lords report that “demolished the circular argument” that local government expenditure is all part of national government expenditure, saying it’s “Humpty Dumpty” logic! Its only because Treasury says so and only because councils are over-controlled and haven’t in living memory had real freedom of action: “other economies can be successful while doing things differently” (4.1.5).

If we believe in devolution then what Whitehall compels councils to do, as minimum levels of statutory services, ought to be funded centrally – 100%, taking appropriate account of geographic and demographic differences in cost of delivering services. Councillors should only be held to account by local electors for how efficiently they use those external funds. 

Anything that democratically elected councils decide to do in addition should be 100% funded from local taxes, set locally using their local choice of tax bases, as was decided by Conference in 1999.

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Roads ‘plagued’ with potholes taking over 18 months to fix

  • Single pothole in Stoke took 567 days to fix after being reported
  • Government has slashed road maintenance funding by £500 million
  • Lib Dems call for end to “pothole postcode lottery” and restoring of road budgets for local authorities

Individual potholes are taking over eighteen months to be repaired in some areas, new figures have revealed.

Data obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests has revealed that some councils in England are taking over a month on average to fix potholes once they have been reported, with some individual potholes left for 567 days before being repaired.

The Liberal Democrats have criticised …

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Lib Dems challenge ministers on local government funding

With local council elections less than eight weeks away in England, Lib Dems are getting the message out local government funding.

John Marriott, a former Liberal Democrat councillor in Lincolnshire, writes on the Guardian’s letter page:

“Local government funding has been… the victim of the totally inadequate council tax for decades, and an ever-reducing central grant…

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Paul Scriven: We need to fund Councils properly and give them the powers to create great communities

Local Government is an issue of paramount importance to Liberal Democrats. Last week in the Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven led a debate on the essential services that local authorities provide. He outlined how chronic underfunding of local government, combined with rising demand for services was creating unsustainable problems.

Here is his speech:

I am very pleased to be leading this debate because to me it is a vital issue that affects every village, every town, every city and every region: local government has a positive power to change people’s lives. Just think of the older person who is becoming vulnerable and possibly losing their independence. With good public health, good housing services and good social services that person can continue to lead an independent life with dignity. Just think of the young man who might be on a crossroads between violence and going forward to have a fulfilling life. With good youth services and education services that young person can be supported to make the correct decision and have a successful life.

Local government can facilitate enterprise and business locally with good business development services, planning and support services provided by local authorities. They can help to create vibrant, successful and sustainable communities: libraries, parks, clean air, shared spaces and bringing people together to give them opportunities to achieve. That is the vision that I think most people have of a good local service: bottom up and delivering for people—not just a service provider of last resort but a local democratic hub that facilitates and brings opportunities for people and businesses to succeed.

I will mention my own journey in Sheffield in the local authority, first as a back-bench councillor helping individual constituents, then as leader of the opposition, ​many times clashing with the then chief executive, the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—I am not sure whether he will raise that—then as chair of scrutiny, holding the executive to account, and then having the great pleasure of leading that great city and that great council. I was then put on early retirement when I lost my seat and am now back again as a local councillor. I saw the power that local authorities can have to affect individuals and communities and make a real difference to people’s ability to succeed in their life.

That is what the situation should do, but we must look at what it has now become in many cases. Sadly, in some cases local authorities have not just become the provider of last resort but are struggling to be even that—we only have to look at Northamptonshire, Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire County Councils, and the National Audit Office warning that reserves are running out. In some cases they are not just unable to provide the opportunities that I talked about but are unable to provide the very statutory services that they are there to provide in an emergency as a safety net.

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