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'LONDON NEEDS FAIR SHARE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDING'

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London's boroughs are urging the government to provide a boost to their pressured public services to meet the chall...
London's boroughs are urging the government to provide a boost to their pressured public services to meet the challenges the capital faces.

The key issues facing London's services are outlined in a submission by the Association of London Government (ALG) to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as part of the government's review of the way funding is distributed to local government over the next three financial years.

The need to fully recognise the high cost of providing services to London's seven million residents, the effects of the capital's major recruitment and retention problems, and the chronic lack of affordable accommodation are among the issues underlined in the submission.

Chair of the Association of London Government Robin Wales said: 'Our public services are stretched to the limit every day with the major challenges they face in providing top quality services.

'Recruiting and retaining key staff, tackling homelessness, raising education standards, enhancing the environment, dealing with asylum are just some of the wide range of issues the capital has to deal with.

'Other parts of the country face similar challenges, but there is nowhere outside London that faces such a unique and intense combination of challenges.'

Among the issues in the submission are:

Recognising London's needs - Area Cost Adjustment

Providing services in London costs a lot more than in other parts of the country due to the high cost of living and extremely volatile labour market.

This leads to a recruitment and retention headache for London's boroughs who often have to employ to employ agency staff at additional costs to cover staffing gaps in areas like social work.

Education for all

While some pupils from all ethnic groups can do very well, African-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils are still markedly less likely to attain five higher grade GCSEs than White or Indian children. The gap is bigger now than it was a decade ago.1

Additional time and resources need to be given to students with English as an additional language to give them the opportunity of a good education and a foundation for later life.

English is an additional language for 29 per cent of London's secondary school children and 33 per cent for primary school children compared to eight per cent and ten per cent across England respectively2

Pupils changing schools at irregular times during the school year is also very costly. The average level of pupil mobility in Inner London schools is 14 per cent - twice that anywhere else in the country. In outer London it is 7 per cent - higher than any other non-London local education authority.3

Pupils change schools due to a wide range of reasons including homelessness, families moving home, change in family circumstances, and the re-settlement of refugees and asylum seekers

Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services

Boroughs want to see the levels of affordable accommodation increased in the long term but are currentlyfaced with a lack of affordable housing in London.

This means local authorities have to pay to find alternative homes for homeless families, and they should receive additional help towards covering the cost.

London has nearly 60 per cent of the national total of people in temporary accommodation,4 and more than 50 per cent of the national figure of 12,110 families in bed and breakfast accommodation.5

London acts as a gateway to the rest as it accounts for more than half of the overseas visitors to the UK 6, with the additional cost of providing services for the millions of visitors who visit the capital annually needing to be fully reflected.

Population Mobility

London's large privately rented market and the lack of affordable accommodation are among the factors which lead to large numbers of people moving regularly between addresses, often across borough boundaries.

The provision of vital services such as social services, education, and housing and council tax benefits is extremely difficult and costly especially when people move from borough to borough.

The ALG's full submission is available here .

Note

The government is reviewing the formulas dictating how much grant is allocated to local authorities though the Local Government Finance Settlement, over the next three financial years from 2003/04.

This funding, which has a significant impact on the level of council budgets, the services local authorities provide and the level of council taxes, is normally announced in November/December.

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