Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig need to cut Peppa Pig some slack

By Ian Miller | 01 December 2021

District councils are in a waiting game, with the provisional settlement for 2022 and possibly the levelling up White Paper arriving before Christmas. Michael Gove was reported last week as saying districts ‘should [not] be in a position to fetter the judgement of the counties which are outside their own area’. The comments lack precision. Perhaps county deals won’t involve strategic district functions (planning, housing, etc) or powers that both counties and districts have, such as economic development. Will devolution only be about bus and train services or skills? Or, more worryingly, was Mr Gove signalling that some functions or powers are going to be stripped away from districts and gifted to elected mayors? A less charitable interpretation is that he doesn’t have a grasp yet of the responsibilities of different types of councils.

Districts also need certainty and flexibility about their finances. The provisional settlement should involve stability with the continuation of the New Homes Bonus at its current level and no funding reforms. The District Councils’ Network has demonstrated conclusively that the settlement funding assessment share of the new £1.6bn grant would not meet pressures facing districts. They have experienced the largest drop in Government funding because of austerity. COVID had a disproportionate impact on districts’ finances because they generate a higher proportion of income from sales, fees and charges.

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Finance New Homes Bonus Devolution Finance Settlement District Councils Network Austerity Coronavirus Levelling up