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By Alex Vaughan, Chief Executive Officer at Costain Group PLC
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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Councils need significant and sustained funding to plug £6bn black hole

(Alamy)

3 min read

Two weeks have now passed since the Prime Minister announced the General Election will be held on July 4.

National campaigning is in full swing, with party leaders travelling up and down the country in battle buses to announce key pledges to the nation.

Among issues raised so far include the NHS, immigration, defence and national security and tax. While these are all undoubtedly important issues for our communities, we know our residents also care about their streets being clean, potholes filled, rubbish collected regularly, leisure facilities and green spaces to enjoy and their friends and family receiving care and support when they need it most.

We now need to hear from all parties how they will secure the long-term future of our under-pressure local services. While the focus is on who will form the next national government, it is local government that works at the front line of our daily lives and holds the keys to addressing the huge challenges facing our country.

Today the LGA has published our Local Government White Paper, a flagship policy document built after months of consultation with councils and key stakeholders, which sets out how a reset relationship between central and local government is the only way whoever forms the next government to tackle them.

The financial challenges facing councils remain acute. Our new analysis shows councils in England face a funding gap of more than £6 billion over the next two years. The LGA is calling on all political parties to commit to a significant and sustained increase in funding for councils in the next Spending Review, alongside multi-year funding settlements for councils and plans to reform the local government finance system.

But the White Paper is not just a call for more money.

The Paper’s ambitious vision also includes a call for a major review of public service reform which is underpinned by preventative services to reduce demand for costly interventions for high-need services, such as adults and children's social care. It makes the case for five-year local housing deals so councils and combined authorities can build more affordable homes at scale and devolved national employment schemes, end to fragmented funding pots for local growth. 

Focussing on how councils, when given the powers, can shape their local areas, the White Paper also makes clear that economic growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders.

To unlock the potential of people and their communities, the LGA has set out how councils can play a vital leading role in unlocking labour markets, creating jobs, plugging skills gaps and increase productivity. This includes devolving powers to run local skills and employment schemes, ending fragmented, short-term growth funding pots and backing local climate action.

Local government's offer to whoever forms the next government is enormous. It is councils who provide strong leadership that ensures the country has safe and thriving communities and can help government tackle the many challenges it will face. Whether it is building more affordable housing, improving care for adults and children, reducing homelessness, boosting inclusive growth or tackling climate change.

It is vital for the next government to recognise the need to empower councils to deliver for their residents and the country.

Local government’s offer to all political parties is clear – commit to this and we will deliver. By working together as equal partners, we can meet the fundamental long-term challenges facing our communities.

 

Cllr Kevin Bentley, senior vice-chairman of the Local Government Association

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Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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