The quantum of funding for services in England has taken a substantial hit since 2010 while the cash made available to councils in Scotland and Wales has increased, LGC analysis reveals.
Councils in Scotland and Wales now have access to more funding for core services, including schools but excluding police and fire, than they did at the start of the decade whereas comparable funding levels for English councils have been cut by a quarter (26%) over the same period.
The devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland have increased funding, in absolute terms, by 8% and 3% respectively since 2010.
When total funding is calculated per head, English councils are once again worse off.
“What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference” Jo Miller, Solace president
In 2018-19 English councils are receiving, on average, £1,423 to spend on services per person. This is more than a third lower than what their counterparts in Wales and Scotland are given to spend per person this year – £2,309 and £2,237 respectively.
While the amount of per capita funding made available to councils in Wales and Scotland has increased by 5.2% and 0.2% respectively in absolute terms since 2010-11, England has witnessed a 29.8% reduction in the last eight years.
Commenting on the findings, Jo Miller, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, who writes on the issue for LGC today, said: “What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference. With a comprehensive spending review on the horizon, and the need for a preserved union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland post Brexit, the case for genuine devolution within England grows ever stronger.”
Both the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government declined to comment on the findings.
However, in his Budget speech last month chancellor Philip Hammond said English local government had “made a significant contribution to repairing the public finances”. He pointed to £1bn extra funding for social care, and the removal of the housing borrowing cap, as proof the government was giving councils “more resources to deliver high quality public services.”
Mr Hammond also said “longer-term funding decisions [for English councils] will be made at the spending review.”
In an interview with LGC, local government minister Rishi Sunak said he did not recognise the national disparities highlighted by our analysis but added “we have a devolved country so whatever Scotland and Wales want to prioritise is up to them. It’s not for me to tell them what to do.”
Mr Sunak said that while he preferred to “focus on outcomes, not necessarily just inputs”, the extra money in the Budget amounted to a “pretty serious statement of intent”.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said its councils had been “protected from the worst effects” of austerity. She added: “We value local government services in Wales and believe in strong local government. We recognise their importance, particularly for some of the most vulnerable in our society, and the role these services play in enabling people to achieve their potential and to live independently, in supporting safe and prosperous communities and in building local economies.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.”