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'Serious concerns' raised about sustainability of key services

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Local government services have become “distinctly more efficient” over the past decade, yet the costs for these services are increasingly being passed on to taxpayers, according to a new report.

Published ahead of the autumn Budget, the report by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy and the Institute for Government has analysed public service expenditure and concluded central and local government is “quietly transferring” the cost of many services on to individuals.

Dr Emily Andrews, associate director at the Institute for Government, said: “One way the government has tried to save money and avoid the need for tax increases is by asking members of the public to contribute more in other ways – from volunteers running libraries to people paying a greater share of the cost of defending themselves in court.”

The document also reported “serious concerns about prisons, adult social care and neighbourhood services”, which all require an increase in funding.

While neighbourhood services have “sustained the deepest cuts to spending” of the nine services considered, the report first recommended increasing spending on prisons and adult social care - neither of which “can continue to operate at their current level of efficiency”.

Cipfa chief executive Rob Whiteman said: “Data from the Office for Budget Responsibility shows that if current taxation levels (37% of GDP) stayed the same, in 50 years the state will only able to fund retirement pensions and health services.

“And so, if the government wants to deliver the kind of services that communities expect and need, then they must be willing to fashion a new sustainable funding model. To achieve this, bolder, braver and perhaps politically-unpopular decisions will have to be made.”

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