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Residents face a double whammy

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Charges for services will soar while many council departments will be ravaged by cuts, an exclusive LGC survey suggests.

With the tight financial settlement forcing urgent measures to balance books, 67% of senior officers believe their council’s charges for services including sports facilities and commercial waste collection will rise by 3% or more.

Over a quarter (27%) say charges will increase by more than 5%.

And widespread cuts are predicted - with even government priority areas being targeted. Local cuts in social care are predicted by 43% of officers on relevant authorities, children’s services cuts are expected by 37% and housing savings predicted by 31%.

Nearly half of officers (49%) say environmental services will be slashed and 45% of respondents expect planning to be hit. But corporate and back office services face the biggest challenge - with 69% of officers anticipating cuts.

Respondents also indicated that local politicians were threatened by council tax hikes during a downturn.

One London borough finance head said: “Feedback from resident surveys indicates that they prefer increases in charges on the users of services to the burden falling on council tax payers.”

Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Steve Freer said: “Local authorities will always look to increase income rather than cut expenditure.

“But in the current climate, councils need to think long and hard about how they go about this.”

Some respondents thought fly tipping would escalate as rubbish disposal charges increased.

But KPMG local government head Iain Hasdell said councils were using price increases to cut demand for services.

“There is a trend of local authorities raising prices for services, as well as beginning to charge for services that were previously free, such as bulky waste collection or school transport,” he said.

The survey was completed by 111 senior managers, 21 of whom were chief executives and 43 were finance directors.

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