Comprehensive Spending Review and Local Government Funding

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
30 April 2008

Conference welcomes the increased flexibility that has been given to local authorities to focus their spending on local needs. The conversion of many ring-fenced grants in both England (through Area Based Grants) and Scotland (as agreed in the Scottish Local Government Concordat) to general funding is welcome. The burden of assessment of council services is being lightened by moving to outcome based measures of performance – Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) in England, or Single Outcome Agreements (SOA) in Scotland.

Local authorities are being given these additional freedoms just when their funding is being severely squeezed. Conference notes that the three year Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) 2007 gave the harshest settlement since 1997. Conference further notes that this settlement does not take into account the demands on local authorities with an increasingly ageing population and the need to tackle issues such as climate change.

The budget for local government funding in England gave annual increases of 4.0%, 4.4% and 4.3% – a real terms freeze based on 2007 inflation. CSR07 also required 3% annual cash efficiency savings across local authorities in England, and similar efficiencies in Northern Ireland. In Wales the budget increase for 2008 is just 3.3%, with an annual requirement for 1% efficiency savings. The Scottish Budget Spending Review 2007 covering three years grants an average increase of 1.5% per annum and demands 2% efficiencies. Leeway for raising money elsewhere is restricted, with Council Tax being frozen in Scotland, and increases capped at 5% in England. This has a direct impact on the ability of the NJC and SJC to negotiate decent pay increases for members.

This Conference therefore calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Work with the NEC to campaign with user groups, campaigning organisations, councils and other bodies in the sector – using the political funds as appropriate – for adequate funding for local government services;

2)Research the real effect of efficiency savings on jobs and services and publicise this in local and national campaigns;

3)Produce guidance and offer assistance to branches to challenge local efficiency plans and offer positive public alternatives;

4)Campaign for additional government funding for pay settlements, so proper wages are not won at the expense of jobs or services;

5)Issue guidance to help branches make the best use of new local government structures such as the ‘Duty to Involve’ in their campaigns;

6)Support lawful industrial action where branches have trade disputes. The timing and nature of any lawful industrial action must be effective and timely

7)Make clear our opposition to any cuts, job losses or privatisation. Too many local authorities have made cuts be keeping posts vacant, deleting vacant posts or via “voluntary” redundancies. It is our members who are then left to pick up the pieces. In addition, outsourcing to trusts or tenant management boards is often seen as a soft option rather than privatisation – but with the effect on our members future job and pay security being the same