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County authorities urge clarity over funding for councils next year in new five-point plan for the government

Monday July 29th, 2019

County Councils Network (CCN) published a new five-point plan for the new government – with local authorities urging for ‘immediate clarity’ over resource for councils next year, and a ‘cast-iron commitment’ to the Fair Funding Review.Government Opportunities

The document, a Five-Point Plan for Local Government, calls for an immediate plan from the government for councils with the Spending Review unlikely this year owning to ‘Brexit’. Local government faces a £5.2bn funding black hole next year, even if all councils raise council tax and there were no reductions in funding; with counties having the largest gap of £2.1bn. CCN is calling for emergency resource, targeted at the areas in most need.

At the same time, CCN is calling on the new government to commit to seeing the Fair Funding Review through to completion and that it must genuinely seek to rebalance funding inequalities between rural and urban locations.

In the document, CCN says that it would be ‘extremely disappointed’ if the review is delayed but warned that it cannot be abandoned, and ministers must work with councils and the local government sector to finalise proposals. The network has called on the government to commit to publishing the results of the review later this financial year, and then for full implementation in 2021.

The proposals contained in CCN’s plan for government can be delivered without legislation. It calls on the government to publish the long-awaited social care green paper, with emergency funding in the interim before proposals can be rolled out.

Over the past decade, the number of over 65s in counties has risen by over one million people and county leaders have long called for a sustainable funding solution for care services with demand only projected to rise.

It contains recommendations on the role of counties in strategic planning and infrastructure; a request to revisit reforms to Local Enterprise Partnerships introduced last year; and our support for the government to press ahead with the publication of a common devolution framework.

Cllr David Williams, County Councils Network chairman-elect and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said:

“We are currently living through some of the most unprecedented political times in recent memory. As such, much of the attention of the new government will be focused on ‘Brexit’. Yet the inescapable fact is that there are huge domestic challenges – and opportunities – facing the new administration.

“This is why CCN has published this Five-Point Plan for Local Government. This is both pragmatic and achievable enabling the new government to hit the ground running – and which can be delivered without legislation.

“It seeks to deal with the financial uncertainty councils are facing across the country. If a year Spending Review cannot take place this year, it outlines the steps government needs to take to help close the £5.2bn funding gap facing councils, while ensuring resources are targeted on councils who face the greatest financial challenge.

“In taking forward our plan, I will support the new Secretary of State for Local Government in making a powerful case to the Treasury for emergency funding for councils next year to protect crucial frontline services. At the same time, it is paramount that we get a cast-iron commitment to adopt Fair Funding at the earliest opportunity and contribute to rebalancing the funding inequities between county and urban areas.

“Importantly, this document also sets out a wider, more positive agenda. CCN member councils are more than just social care authorities, they are the key local agency that can engineer public service reform at scale and support the government in delivering post-’Brexit’ growth and prosperity”.

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