Cornerstones for a sustainable future
With more than 1,000 delegates and speakers the LGA Annual Conference is a hothouse of ideas and debate. But while economic growth, innovation and workforce relations were all hot topics, the issue most people wanted to discuss with me was the LGA’s report into the future of local government funding.
By the time this article goes to print your council should have received a full copy of the report. It shows that without urgent reform, by the end of the decade councils’ ability to provide some of their most popular services will be severely undermined by the rising cost of adult social care and stagnating local government funding. I have described this scenario in the past as local government’s “stay awake” issue. Speaking with leaders and senior officers at our national conference it seems I’m not alone in losing sleep over this.
The action required to ensure councils have the ability to deliver adult social care while maintaining the other services local people expect is clear. We need government help to meet the short-term funding crisis in adult social care, followed by a major reform of how it is paid for in future. We need local government funding to be put on a sustainable footing. And we need Whitehall to look at how it can devolve and consolidate services in a similar way to what we have seen in Community Budgets which have been so successful in improving outcomes and lowering the cost of dealing with troubled families.
This report is just the first step. Having identified the problem the task now is to produce compelling solutions. The Community Budgets model is one element, as is ensuring that the levers and proceeds of growth are made available to local authorities. We also need to demonstrate how the public-sector-leading efficiency of local government makes it a natural home for a wide range of service delivery.
This has already begun. Over the next 12 months the LGA will work with the sector to pull together those individual strands to form a persuasive argument in favour of strong, sustainably funded local government. I look forward to that being the major topic of conversation at next year’s annual conference.
Merrick Cockell (Con), chairman LGA and leader, Kensington and Chelsea RBC