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Cash-strapped councils target arts, parks and leisure cuts

Cash-strapped councils target arts, parks and leisure cuts
29.02.2024
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Councils in England are in a state of financial crisis with many facing effective bankruptcy in the next few years unless the funding system is reformed, according to a new report.

More than half the councils that responded to a survey said they were likely to be unable to balance their books in the next five years.

Two-thirds said they were cutting services. Parks, leisure facilities, arts and culture are at the top of the list.

There have been repeated warnings about the state of council finances, with the government announcing an extra £600m of funding earlier this year to help plug budget gaps.

Despite that, many councils are currently setting budgets that will see service cuts from April, at the same time as increasing council tax and charges.

The Local Government Information Unit surveyed senior council leaders and officers, with responses from 128 authorities in England.

It found nine in 10 plan to raise council tax and increase fees and charges for things such as parking and environmental waste.

Nearly one-third of the councils that responded plan on cutting spending parks and leisure, with another third cutting arts and culture and one in 10 cutting services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Local Government Information Unit said the current situation would leave residents paying more for less, and called for reform of the way councils are funded in order to “save” the services they provide.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “We recognise councils are facing challenges and that is why we announced an additional £600m support package for councils across England, increasing their overall funding for the upcoming financial year to £64.7 billion – a 7.5% increase in cash terms.

“This includes £500m of new funding for councils with responsibility for adult and children’s social care, distributed through the social care grant. Councils are responsible for their own finances and setting council tax levels, but we have been clear they should be mindful of cost-of living pressures while controlling any unnecessary or wasteful expenditures.”

 

 

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