Finance chief slams ‘incredibly severe’ budget cuts after government funding announcement

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington’s executive member for finance, performance and community safety. Photograph: Islington Council.

Islington Council’s finance chief has slammed the “incredible severity” of government cuts to councils in the wake of the latest funding announcement from Westminster.

Local government secretary James Brokenshire MP announced a “broad package of measures” for Town Hall finances over the next four years at the end of January, with the aim of increasing councils’ spending power by £1.3 billion by 2020.

However, Brokenshire’s announcement drew swift calls to do more to reverse austerity from the Local Government Association (LGA) and London Councils, as well as Islington’s executive member for finance, performance and community safety, Cllr Andy Hull (Lab, Highbury West).

Cllr Hull said: “National government cuts to council budgets have been incredibly severe.

“Islington Council has lost 70 per cent of its core government funding since 2010, despite growing demand for the vital services that councils provide in our communities – services like care for older people and support for vulnerable children.

“Through careful budgeting and rigorous financial planning, Islington Council is continuing to provide good quality services for local people.

“But, as in other London councils, without an urgent increase in government funding, this task is getting even harder every year.”

Measures announced by Brokenshire include £240 million in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 to support adult social care services, as well as an additional £410 million Social Care Support Grant for local authorities.

National adult social care budgets face a funding gap of £1.5 billion in 2019/20, rising to £3.5 billion by 2024/25, according to the Local Government Association.

London Councils also expressed its disappointment with the settlement, and urged the government to work with council leaders to put local government funding on a long-term sustainable footing.

It claims the new measures are no answer to a £500 million hole faced by London boroughs in the coming financial year.

Cllr Peter John OBE (Lab, Champion Hill), chair of London Councils, said:  “We are disappointed that government has not listened to our urgent concerns about the state of local government finances in London.

“London boroughs will have to make huge savings to remain in the black this year, putting pressure on key services that are already overstretched and struggling.

“We also have reservations about the way funding is being shared between different local authorities.

“While an additional £650 million for adults and children’s social care in 2019-20 is welcome, it is being distributed according to adult social care demand only.

“This will mean that overwhelmed children’s services departments across the country will not be able to access the funding they need, putting vulnerable children at risk.

“Today’s settlement is proof that a new vision for local government is sorely needed.

“We are committed to ensuring the upcoming Spending Review reflects local government’s central role in improving the lives of people up and down the country, resulting in more resources and further devolution to the sector.”