Communities secretary Greg Clark has pledged to argue for the “most reasonable” and “intelligent” financial settlement he can get. The pledge came in Mr Clark’s speech to the Local Government Association conference this afternoon.
Addressing delegates on the final day of the conference, Mr Clark said he could not hide from the fact that there were more cuts to come but would take an “intelligent approach” that looked beyond traditional divisions between government departments.
He added: “I will go on to argue hard for the most reasonable settlement for local government.
“One that makes savings, but that does so in a fair, transparent and intelligent way.”
He suggested devolution could offer a solution to funding challenges.
While there was no more money available, he added, councils could make a case for a bigger share of funding which is currently controlled nationally.
Mr Clark also stressed the government’s devolution offer extended to all parts of the country, not just urban areas.
He said: “I want every place in this country to consider how they can assert their strengths and make their mark.
“We must be a nation of muscular communities – north and south, east and west, town and country.”
Mr Clark said areas would need unity and the support of the business community via local enterprise partnerships for the government to agree a devolution deal.
He also used his speech to call for a focus on affordable housing, saying this was essential to prevent young people being effectively “exiled” to cheaper areas.
However, Mr Clark told delegates that communities and councils should not feel they had lost out as a result of new developments, suggesting the controversial new homes bonus was likely to continue.
During his speech Mr Clark frequently praised local government and the sector’s success in dealing with severe cuts over the past parliament.
He said: “It reinforces my view that central government has more to learn from local government than vice versa, and that view will characterise my approach to working with you all.”
He described his predecessor Sir Eric Pickles’ relationship with the sector as “rumbustious” but paid tribute to him as the “Godfather of decentralisation”.
In questions following the address this afternoon Mr Clark promised to make the case for multi-year financial settlements for local government.
He said: “There’s a case for long-term certainty on funding, whether through devolution deals or otherwise. I will make the case for that in the comprehensive spending review.”