Most English authorities planning a council tax hike, survey finds
Eight out of 10 councils believe the current funding system is ‘unsustainable’, according to a poll of local government leaders.
Nearly all local authorities in England are planning to raise council tax in the year ahead while vital services remain under pressure, a survey has found.
The poll, by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and the Municipal Journal, found that eight in 10 councils believe the current funding system is “unsustainable”, with more than half, 53%, planning to dip into their reserves.
More than a quarter, 29%, said they were planning to cut spending on adult social care, with 24% expecting reductions in children’s care services, 16% in special education and disability support, and 11% in support for the homeless.
The findings are based on responses from 158 senior council figures, including leaders, chief executives and finance directors, representing 123 of the 353 English local authorities.
Overall the survey found 97% of local authorities were planning to raise council tax in 2019-20, with three-quarters set to increase it by more than 2.5%.
In most areas, any increase of 3% or more requires a local referendum.
A similar number, 97%, were set to increase fees and charges, with 13% planning hikes of 5% or more.
Children’s services and education was said to the area under the greatest immediate financial pressure by 36% of councils, with 23% pointing to adult social services.
Many community services were said to be facing cuts, with 45% of councils planning reductions to parks and leisure, 38% to roads, 32% to libraries and 22% to waste collection.
The report said the cuts reflected a £16 billion drop in central government funding since 2011.
LGiU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said councils had no option but to adopt “drastic measures” if they were to make ends meet.
“We know that council funding is broken. Councils are making do by increasing council tax as much as they can, increasing charging and dipping in to their reserves,” he said.
“Even with these desperate measures they are having to reduce spending; not just on vital place-shaping services like leisure, libraries and parks but in core life-saving areas like social care and children’s services.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the forthcoming Government spending review would be “make or break” for many vital local services.
Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s resources board, said: “Many councils feel they have little choice but to ask residents to pay more council tax again this year to help them try and protect their local services.
“With councils facing a funding gap of more than £3 billion this year, council tax rises will not prevent the need for continued cutbacks to local services.
“If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them.
“Fully funding councils is the only way they will be able to keep providing the services which matter to people’s lives.”
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