Eric Pickles announced the local government settlement for the next few years yesterday saying he was expecting ‘more for less’. We’ve been reminded that he does know local government, he spent time as a leader of a council in the 1980s, and there’s no doubt that the mantra isn’t a new one.
The change comes in the scale of change that is being implemented. Let’s take Lewisham, as the charts below illustrate there are cuts in central government support for council services of 6.49% next year. The government have also said that they don’t want to see council tax rises, and have assumed that this will remain static for the next period.
This means that over the next two years Steve and those who advise him need to find £40 million to take out of the budget.
We know that the strategy they’ve set looks a year beyond that and has assumed that a further £20 million needs to be found in 2013 – 14.
What seems clear to me is that while it may become imperative to make savings from senior staff – no easy thing if the failure of Islington and Camden to do a deal is anything to go by – that isn’t sufficient and the choices that are being made are between the unpalatable and the unimaginable.
As a side note I’ve heard Ministers describe the new Public Health Service – which I don’t think is in the figures released by the DCLG – as “Christmas come early” for local government. It certainly explains why the LGA is so keen not to have a ring fence around its budget.
A number of posts that I’ve read recently suggest that the way that the government set out the figures that I used for the graphs above don’t really do justice to the savagery of what Eric Pickles and George Osborn are up to.
the more important number here is the formula grant, which is the £29bn a year given by Whitehall to local government. It is this number which is falling substantially – by 27 per cent – over the next four years as a result of the spending review. The deepest cuts are in some of Britain’s most deprived regions, reflecting their heavier dependence on this central grant.
All of which sent me back to the Excel spreadsheet.
It also gives me a chance to take up the suggestion of making it clearer what the politics of London look like.
You might also want to note that Merton is run by a Labour minority administration and Redbridge is run by a Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition. The City of London doesn’t do political parties.