This afternoon the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced a further £500 million in funding for county councils. The announcement was made in a Written Statement to Parliament by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. This statement can be found here.
This announcement follows a joint campaign led by Cllr Ben Bradley MP, the Member of Parliament for Mansfield and Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, and the County Councils Network to secure more funding from central government for county councils. This campaign included a cross-party letter, signed by 46 MPs including former Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Local Government Ministers Neil O’Brien and Kit Malthouse as well as others, to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Levelling Up Secretary of State Michael Gove highlighting the financial situation county councils are facing and calling for more support following the Autumn Statement and the provisional Local Government Settlement.
County Councils are set to overspend by £650 million this year with a funding shortfall of £4 billion forecast over the next three years. While planned savings half this deficit, this still leaves councils with significant shortfalls over the coming years, potentially forcing some councils to look again at the non-statutory services they provide, such as libraries and youth clubs.
Whilst Mr Bradley has been clear that the Council he leads, Nottinghamshire County Council, is relatively in a much better position than many others, he has raised the Local Government sector's concerns with Ministers and Officials in recent weeks.
The £500 million announced today by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will help councils to significantly better support their residents who rely on these non-statutory services, a lot of whom are significantly vulnerable, and prevent cuts to these services that would otherwise have to have been made.
ClIr Ben Bradley MP, Chair of the County APPG and Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council stated:
‘Today's announcement is a culmination of an effective campaign led by the CCN and County All-Party Parliamentary Group which was supported by a large group of county MPs from all parts of the country. I was delighted so many colleagues signed our letter, which showed the strength of feeling from county MPs.’
‘An extra £500m for the sector will be strongly welcomed by my parliamentary colleagues and will help us ensure that the worst case scenarios in terms of service reductions are avoided and valued frontline services are protected. Councils still face difficult choices this year and next, and that's why councils need a long-term sustainable funding settlement and reform to our statutory responsibilities moving forward.’
‘For Nottinghamshire, as I've said, we've been relatively OK compared to many other Councils, because we've run a really tight ship and made good decisions in recent years to plan for the long term. That means we're not facing a cliff edge like some Councils are, but this additional support will help us with that long term shift towards a more sustainable set of services to support residents, and help is to invest in some key priorities.'
Cllr Tim Oliver, Chair of the County Councils Network stated:
‘Over recent weeks the County Councils Network (CCN) has led the way in highlighting the extreme pressures facing county and unitary authorities, and the consequences of not providing them with emergency financial relief. This culminated in a letter to government last week, signed by an unprecedented 46 MPs which illustrates the severity of the issue.’
‘We strongly welcome the government listening to our concerns, and today's announcement of an additional £500m will go some way to easing the pressures and in particular addressing the escalating demand and costs of delivering social care and home to school transport. CCN would like to thank the Prime Minister, the government, and County MPs for recognising those pressures and for responding very positively in supporting our case for additional funding.’
‘Whilst this extra funding will undoubtedly help us protect valued frontline services, councils, of course, still face difficult decisions when setting their budgets for 2024/25. Service reductions will still be necessary for councils in some areas to balance their books, while the majority of councils will still have little choice but to propose maximum council tax rises.’
‘Looking further ahead, reform of local government finance and the way in which we are expected to provide services is imperative.’
‘Councils require a long-term financial settlement to enable us to plan for, and meet, the demand from our growing elderly populations and the more complex needs of residents requiring social care. This must be coupled with a comprehensive reform programme to bring in line the funding envelope available to enable us to deliver effectively our statutory responsibilities.’
You can find more information on the cross-party letter here.