Local investment can reap national rewards

Sir Bob Neill feels the Budget was an opportunity to provide financial aid for councils, which in turn will help the Government deliver national policies – but has the chancellor taken the chance?

At the time of writing, the 2024 Budget is a week away, the last before a General Election. By the time of this article's publication the dust will still be settling on what it means for local authorities and the services they provide to the public.

I know what many councils' finance directors will be looking for – additional Government support to ensure local financial and service sustainability. The fundamental challenge facing the sector is that cost and demand pressures are rising faster than funding. Local Government Association (LGA) analysis shows that by 2024-25 cost and demand pressures will have added £15bn to the cost of delivering council services since 2021-22. Despite increased funding in both 2023-24 and 2024-25 the LGA estimates the sector was facing a funding gap of £2.4bn and £1.6bn in those respective years. These funding gaps relate solely to the need to maintain services at their current levels.

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