Three quarters of councils in England lack confidence in their financial sustainability, with adult social care being the top long-term pressure, a new survey has found.
The Local Government Finance Survey, published by the LGiU and the Municipal Journal (MJ), paints a picture of the financial struggle facing local authorities after years of public sector cuts and ongoing uncertainty about the future of the local government funding system.
Only 3% of councils are happy with the government’s progress on local finances and 74% say they do not feel confident in the sustainability of local government finance.
Nearly all councils (97%) plan to increase council tax this year, while 90% of councils with adult social care responsibilities plan to make use of the social care precept, which allows local authorities to increase their share of council tax by up to an extra 2%.
Adult social care was named as the top long-term pressure for council finances (37% of councils), followed by children’s services (21%) and housing and homelessness (15%).
Children’s services and education was named as the top immediate pressure for council finances (with 36% of councils placing it first), followed by adult social care (24%) and housing and homelessness (18%).
Adult social care remains a major concern for most councils. While there was some agreement that the government has made progress towards meeting immediate sector funding needs, 98% of councils said they are unhappy with the progress the government had made towards developing a long-term social care strategy.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “The state of local government finances is dire. Eight years later and the message continues to be the same, a broken record. It is simply unacceptable that the government has let things get to this point. Councils deserve better as they work tirelessly, day in and day out, to deliver the best quality services for their residents.
“This isn’t local government asking for more money. This is about a fundamentally flawed system that has been broken for years and the government continually refusing to acknowledge or engage in a proper solution. Sticking plasters will not solve these critical issues. Our social care system is no longer on the edge, it’s fallen off the cliff. Our children’s services aren’t at breaking point, they’re broken. These are issues that cannot wait another year to be solved. That is why we look forward to working with the new Government to develop solutions in the weeks and months ahead.”