Council funding additions 'too little, too late'

A long-term funding settlement for local government is "beyond overdue" and should be an urgent priority, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for finance has said.

Ahead of a crucial period with councils up and down the country setting their budgets, Councillor Nazia Rehman said recent announcements from central government were "not enough" to ease longstanding pressures.

Through prudent financial planning, Wigan Council has been able to deliver a balanced budget, with no cuts to front line services, despite having to make substantial savings.

Last week, the government unveiled plans to hand £500m to councils with responsibilities for social care.

In response, Councillor Nazia Rehman, cabinet portfolio holder for finance and resources, said: “Although any funding is welcome for cash-strapped councils across the country, I’m afraid it’s too little, too late.

“The Local Government Association has warned that councils face a £4bn funding gap over the next two years with inflationary pressures and the soaring costs of providing social care at the forefront.

“Wigan Council has been able to deliver a balanced budget due to careful financial management over the last decade and beyond, through making difficult decisions.

“But it is becoming increasingly difficult for councils to provide the services residents deserve and a long-term, sustainable funding settlement, updated distribution mechanisms, and reforms are beyond overdue. They should be an urgent priority.”

Wigan Council say it has had £180m cut from its budget over the past decade. Services have been maintained and residents have been paying one of the lowest council tax rates in the region.

Its 2024/25 budget will be set by full council in March.

Coun Rehman added: “It is clear that when taken into the context of the discontinuation of the Household Support Grant, a cut to our services grant and ongoing financial pressures, this latest announcement is not enough.

“Although Wigan Council is as confident as we can be of delivering balanced budgets in the short-to-medium term, it is disheartening to see many councils – across the political spectrum – under the threat of issuing section 114 notices.

“As ever, we will continue to add our voice to the calls for fair funding for local services.”

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