Councils across England, Wales and Scotland face a £3bn funding black hole next year

Ministers must find emergency funding to avert catastrophic cuts

Councils in England, Wales and Scotland are grappling with huge budget deficits of almost £3bn for the next financial year*, according to research published by UNISON today (Wednesday).

The record shortfall – totalling £2.996bn – in 2022/23 will lead to huge service and staff cuts at local authorities across Britain unless the government urgently finds the money to protect communities, the union says.

The stark results show the mammoth savings needed to balance the books, without new funding from the government. The cuts will result in significant reductions in the vital support given to local people unless councils receive emergency help, says UNISON.

Many councils have already suffered massive cuts to services in recent years, including bin collections, teaching assistant numbers, social care, library hours and community spaces such as parks. Any further reductions would strip even more essential services to the bone or remove them completely, says UNISON.

Throughout the pandemic councils have kept services running, protected the vulnerable and delivered new functions. It’s essential they receive enough funding to provide for communities as life returns to normal, UNISON says.

Councils grappling with large budget deficits include:

  • Hampshire County Council, which faces making more than £65.9m savings next year. Eight libraries across the county have already closed within the past year, at the cost of 50 jobs, and the county’s remaining library opening hours have been significantly reduced.
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council has an almost £26m financial black hole, despite scaling back social care services by closing three respite centres. The move axed 95 beds and 98 staff roles.
  • Hackney Council faces an £11m deficit in a London borough where 48% of children live in poverty. Teaching assistant jobs have been cut during several school restructures over the past year, with more cost saving reforms ahead. UNISON says the move will particularly disadvantage children with learning difficulties, behavioural issues or where English is not the first language.
  • North Warwickshire Council has a £1.6m shortfall and made reductions to care services, resulting in the loss of 23 jobs.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “These council-funding shortfalls will result in cuts that are likely to hit the poorest in society hardest.

“Children struggling in class won’t be able to get the extra help they need to succeed. Families of the elderly and people needing support will be denied the services on which so many of them rely. Access to much-loved parks, libraries and community facilities are at risk of being taken away.

“The government must step up and help local councils desperately trying to keep afloat. If Boris Johnson is serious about levelling-up, this money must be found. Ministers cannot allow a two-tier society to develop where some of the most in need are left behind.”

Notes to editors:   
– UNISON made FOI requests to all 384 local councils in the three nations asking what funding shortfall they were facing for 2022/23. For the few that did not respond, figures were obtained from the council’s most recent medium-term financial strategy documents. Among authorities with significant deficits are Newcastle City Council (£9.4m shortfall), South Lanarkshire Council (£54m) and Neath Port Talbot Council (£18.9m).
– UNISON has launched a new website which shows the individual funding shortfall faced by each local authority. It has also created a film demonstrating the value of these services to the communities as part of its Save Our Services campaign.
– Council funding in Scotland and Wales is a devolved issue but the governments remain heavily dependent on funding from Westminster. The Welsh government has done its best to limit funding challenges faced by councils, particularly during the pandemic, but additional funding is needed longer term.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:   
Siobhan Cooley M: 07432 549183 E:
Anthony Barnes M: 07778 158175 E: