Fair funding: LGA unable to unify warring factions

By Sam Clayden | 10 January 2018

Treasurers predict the fair funding review will be ‘disastrous’ for the sector as Smith Square fears it will be helpless to stop warring factions splitting. 

With different council groups aggressively presenting their cases for more funding, the Local Government Association (LGA) faces a struggle to unite the sector.

Asked whether the LGA would be able to cultivate a sector-wide position on fair funding at its finance conference this week, the association’s Conservative chairman, Lord Porter, said: ‘I would love to be able to stand here and say we are all adults, but I honestly don’t believe that’s where we will get to.

‘I cannot see a leader from a council standing up and saying it would be really good if my authority got less money next year.

‘Unless we can win the argument that fair funding means not only fair for everyone in the sector, but fair for the sector then we are going to have losers. I don’t see the LGA ever being able to square that circle.

‘If I’m being brutally honest I don’t think we’ll be the group of people who make that decision unless we win the argument we need to win and that is that we should just be able to keep all our bloody business rates.’

During a panel session at the same conference, Society of County Treasurers president, Sheila Little, warned: ‘Unless we do all work together I think it will be a disaster.’

Past president of the Society of District Treasurers, Jason Vaughan, said he would not bet money on whether the fair funding review would even go ahead because there is ‘a lot of distraction in the system’.

President of the Society of London Treasurers, Mike Curtis, claimed that while each society and each authority had to make their own case, the treasurers’ societies could ‘triangulate that, recognise each other’s cases and work together’.

But speaking from the audience, Swale BC’s head of finance, Nick Vickers, questioned whether it was possible for the sector to prevent the fair funding review from being ‘disastrous’.

He added: ‘I think the different groups and councils at the forefront of this are going to continue to argue for a bigger share of the total pie.

‘The nice ideas about lots of treasurers getting together and being harmonious, I simply do not agree with.’

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