Leader of the council urges Chancellor to save local services in his Autumn Statement
Leader of the Council, Shaun Davies, has written an open letter to Jeremy Hunt MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to recognise the impact of inflation and the soaring costs of providing vital social care.
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
House of Commons
17 November 2023
As you work to finalise your Autumn Statement, I write to urge you to protect and invest in the fabric of British life.
Most people go about their day to day lives without giving local government a second thought, but the reality is, as soon as you step out of your front door, it’s your local council working to ensure your street, your community is clean, green, safe and that people are cared for.
As Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, I am proud of what we achieve for our residents – we have vibrant communities, our local economy is growing and our children’s services have been judged as outstanding for example - but we, like others across local government, are in the eye of an inflationary storm and are faced with some difficult decisions about funding future services.
Years of austerity, recovery from the Covid pandemic and now the lingering effects of a national cost of living crisis mean that making ends meet has never been more challenging.
£100 today buys far less than ten years ago. In fact, the Bank of England suggests that goods or services costing £100 in 2013 would cost £133.98 today.
As a result, our budget is stretched across all services, but it will not have escaped you that local government is facing a monumental challenge in adult and children’s social care.
In these services, we not only see the impact of inflation, but that of a sharp increase in the need for vital and more costly services. We feel this acutely, because Telford and Wrekin has one of the fastest growing and ageing populations in the country. One in four people in our borough also live in areas that are considered to be in the 25% most deprived in the country.
This year, we had budgeted over £100 million to pay for adult and children’s social care in our borough. That’s 68% of the council’s total net budget. We have now invested a further £5.5 million into these services for 2023-24, but it’s still not enough.
Careful planning means that our latest budget position shows we will need to use just over £4 million in reserves to balance our budget this year, but these reserves are not unlimited and using them reduces our financial resilience.
The Local Government Association estimates that nationally, if nothing changes, councils are facing a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years – and this assumes that councils make the difficult choice to increase council tax to the maximum before a referendum is needed.
In Telford and Wrekin, we’ve seen the government’s revenue support grant fall from £52 million pounds in 2013 - 40% of our net revenue budget - to £11.6 million pounds, just 8%.
So as you look to prioritise your own budget, I urge you to save local services by giving local government:
- Adequate funding, which recognises the pressure of inflation, population growth and levels of deprivation
- Certainty in financial planning by replacing short-term one year funding settlements with multi-year allocations
Council services are the foundation of communities across the country. Many people simply cannot live without them.
A record of strong financial control in Telford and Wrekin means we are able to tackle the unprecedented challenge of funding these services head on but many other councils will not be able to weather this storm in the same way.
Councillor Shaun Davies
Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council