Advertisement
News

Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement leaves local governments facing ‘difficult decisions’

Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement has done little to reassure local councils who face ‘difficult decisions’ in the years ahead

Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement has alleviated some of the pressure on struggling local authorities, although council officials have warned they still face “difficult decisions” and cuts to some services in the next two years. 

Addressing the House of Commons today, Hunt unveiled the government’s plan to “tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy”, including a combined £55bn in tax increases and spending cuts. He admitted that the UK economy was already in recession and added that things will get worse before they improve.

With inflation hitting a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent, local authorities across the UK have been battling to find an extra £2.4 billion this year, sounding alarm bells that severe cutbacks impacting the most vulnerable would have to be made without additional funding. 

But the chancellor’s policy to give councils the power to increase tax by up to 5 per cent, including additional social care funds was welcome news, even if it ends up stretching households further.

Tim Oliver, the Conservative chairman of the County Councils Network said: “Reinvesting significant additional funding into frontline care services is strongly welcomed and will protect the most vulnerable in our society as well as buy councils vital time to stabilise the care system.”

The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England and Wales, also welcomed Hunt’s announcement. Its chairman, Conservative Councillor James Jamieson, said the financial outlook for councils is now better than feared. He added, though, that councils recognise “it will be residents and businesses who will be asked to pay more”.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Some were less enthused. General secretary of trade union Unison, Christina McAnea, said the government is acting like there’s no public sector pay or workforce crisis. “Super-high inflation means callous cutbacks are on the cards for essential services,” she said, “everyone’s paying the price for getting the Conservatives out of the mess they alone created.”

Councils will still face very difficult decisions over the next two years, particularly when it comes to non-care services. Data collected from 391 councils by trade union Unison found that vital services including waste collections, leisure centres and nurseries were already being cut in some local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. 

The same analysis showed Birmingham City Council faced the biggest budget shortfall of £80m before Hunt’s announcement. 

Council leader and Labour councillor Ian Ward said that the new chancellor has made things even worse. He added: “This is a sticking plaster from a government that has run out of ideas and has decided to balance the budget by passing the buck onto local authorities across the country.”

Advertisement

    Every copy counts this Winter

    Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

    Recommended for you

    Read All
    Inside the trial of the 'Barclays Seven' Extinction Rebellion activists
    Long read

    Inside the trial of the 'Barclays Seven' Extinction Rebellion activists

    Looking to be more sustainable? Here's our top 10 tips to reduce your carbon emissions
    Carbon Footprint

    Looking to be more sustainable? Here's our top 10 tips to reduce your carbon emissions

    This map shows you where to find a warm bank near you this winter
    Winter survival guide

    This map shows you where to find a warm bank near you this winter

    Women stage Suffragettes march to support Extinction Rebellion protesters ahead of sentencing
    Climate activism

    Women stage Suffragettes march to support Extinction Rebellion protesters ahead of sentencing

    Most Popular

    Read All
    Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me
    1.

    Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me

    Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023
    2.

    Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023

    Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023
    3.

    Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023

    Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push
    4.

    Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push