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Councils face £2bn of ‘unpalatable’ cuts unless government intervenes

England’s largest councils will need to cut a further £1bn to balance budgets in February 2019 unless government intervenes.

These are the findings from the County Councils Network (CCN) who have surveyed councils across the UK and warn that they will set out £685m in savings and £233m in frontline service cuts next February.

Cllr Nick Rushton, CCN finance spokesman and leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: ‘County authorities are in a serious and extremely challenging financial position.

‘The further planned funding cuts and continued escalation of costs outside of our control, will make this bad situation even worse.

‘Choices will be limited and reductions to front line services inevitable:  with valued services such as pothole and highway repairs, children’s centres, libraries and increased charges for residents all, on the agenda.’

The CCN says reductions next year are likely to result in further cuts to some care services, extra charges being introduced, the closure of recycling centres, less money for pothole filling, the removal of bus routes, and cuts to public health services.

In the last few weeks, Somerset and Northamptonshire, have had to confirm in-year funding cuts and savings to keep to their 2018-19 budgets, whilst several others have recorded in-year overspends.

CCN also warns with councils using at least £185m of reserves this year, their ability to draw down the same levels next year to offset cuts is limited.

‘There is not enough money today to run vital services,’ adds Cllr Rushton.

‘The Government needs to intervene if we are going to avoid unpalatable cutbacks next year. It is only with extra resource delivered on a sustained basis that will allow delivery of services that the public deserve, growth of our economies, and protection of the vulnerable and elderly.’

The LGA says that by 2020, local authorities will have faced a reduction to core funding from the Government of nearly £16bn since 2010.

Last month they surveyed council transport heads who said a lack of Government funding is holding back ‘sustainable’ transport.

‘The LGA has been calling on the Government to provide long-term funding certainty as well as to reinvest 2 pence per litre of existing fuel duty into local road maintenance which would generate £1bn a year for councils to spend on promoting sustainable travel, reducing congestion and improving roads,’ said Cllr Judith Blake, spokesperson for transport at the LGA.

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