Society must accept that English councils will only be able to provide fewer or lower quality local services in the future, experts have said.
A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed that the expectation for local authorities to operate mainly on revenue from council tax and business rates will mean council purses cannot keep up with rising costs and demand.
Overall spending on local services fell by 21 per cent between 2010 and 2018 – but some services, like housing, were hit even harder.
David Phillips, an sssociate director at the IFS and an author of the report, said: “Current plans for councils to rely on council tax and business rates for the vast bulk of their funding don’t look compatible with our expectations of what councils should provide.
“A proper national debate on how much we are willing to pay and what we expect of councils is therefore needed. Without it, we will default to a situation where the services councils can provide are gradually eroded without an explicit decision being taken – until ad hoc funding is found as a response to political pressure. Such an approach would not be conducive to long-term planning by either councils or the government.”
Despite a deepening social care crisis, the IFS said those services have been relatively protected from the full force of council cuts. Adult social care spending fell by 5 per cent on average, compared to cuts of 40 per cent in both leisure services and transport.