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More pain to come, LGA to warn

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Councils should expect “more pain to come” without increased investment from national government, the Local Government Association is expected to warn to today at the start of its annual conference.

The association’s senior vice chair Nick Forbes (Lab) is set to speak of a local government finance system that is “creaking at the seams”, while Brexit comes “ever closer”.

Cllr Forbes will be deputising for chair Lord Porter (Con), who is recovering from heart surgery, for the curtain-opening speech at the LGA’s flagship event in Birmingham. Cllr Porter is expected to attend the event.

“We know the difficulties our councils have faced, and we know that despite achieving efficiencies and savings that are the envy of the public sector, there is more pain to come. £7.8bn worth of further pain,” Cllr Forbes will say.

The LGA launched its latest lobbying campaign for additional cash in the spending review on Tuesday, warning that councils are “close to exhausting all efficiencies”.

LGA analysis shows that without additional resource from national government, the funding gap between council income and expenditure will reach £7.75bn by 2025.

Cllr Forbes is expected to say: “Right now, national government appears to be devoting its entire political bandwidth to Brexit, and as a result is simply unable to actively engage with us on the big policy and financial challenges that we are grappling with. But while Brexit comes ever closer, we know that local government finance is creaking at the seams.”

The senior vice chair will also say that is “simply not acceptable” for the public to pay more in council tax while the level of frontline council service is expected to decrease.

“People will expect things to be different. That’s what they voted for; they voted for change. They will expect to see a difference in their local area, they will expect to see more housing, they will expect to see better local public services.”

To this end, Cllr Forbes will say local government managers “need a new settlement” and a “new compact” from central government that “devolves powers and finances down to local communities” and treats councils with “dignity and respect”. 

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