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The finance settlement and chaos: coming to a council near you… soon

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Today was meant to be D-day. Or deal day.

MPs had been due to participate in the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on the proposed Brexit deal. But yesterday prime minister Theresa May decided to defer/chickened out of holding (reader, delete as you see fit) the vote until some vague point in the future.

So far, so chaotic.

Of course, the decision to defer the vote has had a knock-on effect.

Last week housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire announced the provisional finance settlement would be delayed until after the meaningful vote had taken place.

Ahead of Ms May’s announcement yesterday Mr Brokenshire was quizzed by MPs on a variety of issues. At one point Mr Brokenshire was specifically asked when he would tell councils the exact detail of the settlement. His response? It would be delivered “very shortly”, he said.

Today LGC asked the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, now that some of the dust had settled, when the local government finance will be delivered. “Soon,” a spokesperson said.

At least that is clear then.

Thanks to the fact councils will now have to start consulting on budgets full of assumptions, question marks and caveats there will be many other things that will happen soon.

Councils will have soon lost almost 60p out of every £1 the government had provided to deliver services, according to Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) in The Times.

There will soon be even more children and adults requiring support from councils.

The number of community centres councils run will soon reduce.

There will soon be even more library closures.

Bus service provision will soon diminish even further.

Quite simply, there will soon be fewer staff delivering fewer vital services.

And yet, councils will not know exactly how all of this can be best managed thanks to the delayed settlement. 

To make matters even worse the Daily Mail reported last week that the social care green paper’s publication had been delayed once again. One can only hope it will soon be published early in the new year.

The delays local government are experiencing are hardly surprising given the fact Brexit has long dominated and preoccupied ministers and civil servants in central government.

However, when it is felt that the Parliamentary time that became available this afternoon as a result of the delayed Brexit vote was better spent discussing amendments to the Ivory Bill – yes, a piece of legislation to prohibit ivory dealing – than telling councils exactly how little funding they will get next year then the delay is bordering on moronic.

LGC reports today on fears a no-deal Brexit will cause major economic harm and chaos. Many might argue the chaos has already begun.

By David Paine, acting news editor

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