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Town halls demand devolution

Town hall bosses have demanded the government devolve more money and powers to a local level as they warn councils can no longer be expected to run ‘services on a shoestring’.

In a new report published today, entitled Growing Places, the Local Government Association (LGA) sets out a series of policies which it claims will give councils the freedom to build more affordable homes, protect care services and boost economic growth.

The report calls on Whitehall to devolve housing and infrastructure funds to enable local authorities to work together to build homes where there is the most demand.

It also recommends ministers put a duty on all housing, health and employment service partners to work with councils on local plans to end homelessness.

Councils can no longer be expected to

run our vital local services on a shoestring’

The government should also give local authorities enhanced compulsory purchase order powers when developments stall or go too slowly and amend the land compensation act, so that councils can acquire land at ‘existing use value’, the report says.

In addition, it calls on the government to devolve the powers and £10.5bn funding around employment and skills to councils and combined authorities in order to develop local integrated services.

Speaking today at the organisation’s annual conference in Birmingham, LGA chair Lord Porter is expected to say councils must ‘shout from the roof tops’ for local government to be put back on a sustainable financial footing.

‘Councils can no longer be expected to run our vital local services on a shoestring,’ he will say.

‘Local government is the fabric of our country, even more so during this period of uncertainty for the nation. Councils are the ones who can be trusted to make a difference to people’s lives: To build desperately-needed homes, create jobs and school places, provide the dignified care for our elderly and disabled, and boost economic growth.

‘If austerity is coming to an end, then we need to make sure councils are at the front of the queue for more money,’ Lord Porter will add.

The LGA will also warn that almost half of all councils in England (168) will no longer receive any core central government funding by 2019/20 and by 2020, councils will face an overall funding gap of around £5.8bn.

The County Councils Network (CCN) has also published a new report by Oxford Economics today, which calls on the government to devolve more powers to the shires and rural areas.

The report claims that if county councils were allowed to set more taxes locally and keep a greater proportion of all the income generated, it could boost England’s annual growth by 2.7% a year at a time when the economy appears to be slowing down because of Brexit.

‘Successive governments have overlooked county areas in comparison to their metropolitan counterparts,’ said CCN chair, Cllr Paul Carter.

‘With intelligent devolution deals and empowerment across county area, so much more could be achieved to support economic growth and prosperity in England.’

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