NALC responds to the Autumn Statement
Cllr Keith Stevens, chair of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), has responded to the Autumn Statement.
Cllr Stevens said: “England’s 10,000 local (parish and town) councils are the first tier of local government and as local leaders play a vital role in helping build strong communities and delivering hyperlocal public services. They stepped up to support their communities during the pandemic and are now taking action to address other big challenges facing the country, like the climate emergency, cost of living crisis, health and well-being and housing.
“While the Autumn statement means the financial outlook for principal (district, county and unitary) councils is somewhat better than feared, the knock-on effect of their ongoing financial challenges and potential impact on services will concern many local councils. Where principal councils have warned about potential cuts to their discretionary services, local councils will want to hold early discussions about the role they might play including taking these on.
“It is important to recognise that the government does not provide any funding to local councils, their services and activities are almost entirely funded by their small share of council tax, which is just 1.8% of overall council tax. Just as the government has increased the core referendum limit for increases in council tax by principal councils, NALC is looking for the government to continue with the flexibility for local councils to raise their small share of council tax without holding a referendum. The government has been right to exclude local councils from this requirement, but the forthcoming local government finance settlement must extend this and over multiple years.
“Following the new prime minister’s recommitment to levelling up, the chancellor announced round two of the Levelling Up Fund. NALC continues to urge the government to reform this and other growth funds such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Community Ownership Fund to provide greater involvement of communities and to allow local councils to bid directly.
“Continued steps to devolve power out of Whitehall are welcome, but the government must go further and be more ambitious, ensuring decentralisation extends to local communities and not just remote combined authorities with devolution deals. As this devolution continues through the new deal for Suffolk and others being developed, it is vital that existing and future mayors engage effectively with communities and local councils. The levelling up white paper included a commitment to review neighbourhood governance and NALC wants to see the government to start this as a matter of urgency.
“NALC is urging the government to work with us to understand the financial pressures and other challenges facing the first tier of local government. By strengthening local leadership through local councils, with diverse funding and building their capacity and capability, the government can empower rural and urban communities to help them level up their areas and boost prosperity and civic pride.”