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LGC survey: Confidence in meeting savings targets in decline

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Only half of senior council officers are confident of making the savings their local authority needs this year, LGC’s Confidence Survey reveals.

Of the 251 local authority chief executives, directors, and managers LGC surveyed in September, 52% said they were confident of realising all of the savings their council has planned for 2017-18. When LGC asked officers this question around the same time last year, three-quarters (75%) were confident about meeting their in-year savings targets.

fortyfour

fortyfour

Looking ahead, there is less confidence of achieving the required savings by the end of the decade than there was about this time last year. Meanwhile, 44% believe their council will suffer a financial crisis within the next three years that will mean they are unable to provide the statutory minimum levels of service required. That is a slight increase from 12 months ago when 42% thought so.

With the exception of a bit less pessimism on cuts to adult and children’s services, along with housing departments and libraries, all other service areas look set to come under further pressure to find savings (see interactive graph below). This comes as LGC analysis of council spending reveals proportionally bigger overspends on children’s social care services in each of the past three years than in adults social care.

fifty two per cent

fifty two per cent

In relation to 2017-18 savings, officers working for district councils were most confident (75%) of delivering on their plans whereas those working for London boroughs (53%) and metropolitan councils were least confident (50%).

According to the Local Government Association the sector is facing a £5.8bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Overall, less than a third (30%) of senior officers said they were confident of meeting their savings targets by 2020 – down from 38% last year.

Again, those working for district councils were most confident (40%) whereas senior staff at London boroughs and metropolitan councils were most doubtful – 57% and 55%, respectively.

This confidence among districts is despite the fact District Councils’ Network analysis of the 2017-18 finance settlement showed 146 of the 201 (72%) district councils face a negative revenue support grant position by 2019-20.

Of the third of respondents who thought their council would suffer a financial crisis by 2020, more than a third (36%) worked for county councils.

LGC reported last month that Northamptonshire CC’s leader Heather Smith (Con) revealed she was drawing up a proposal to ask the government for permission to overspend its annual budget, as long as it could demonstrate it would be able to balance it within five years. Cllr Smith previously told LGC the county council was at the point of “stopping everything except the absolute statutory services”.

Looking beyond the end of the decade, LGC revealed last month that county councils could face an additional funding gap of £550m-£700m within 10 years of the introduction of fully retained business rates if the system is not tweaked.

FIG 1

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