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Monday, 29 October 2018

Extra cash for councils welcomed but 'falls short', say local government chiefs

Written by David Hughes

Cash to meet rising social care costs and extra funds to repair potholes were announced by Philip Hammond to ease the pressure on town hall budgets.

Local government chiefs have suffered years of cuts and the Chancellor acknowledged they had "made a significant contribution to repairing the public finances".

But council leaders warned that the announcements fall short of what is required and financial pressures meant services including libraries, parks and street cleaning remained under threat.

In Budget measures to tackle the social care crisis, Mr Hammond promised £650 million of grant funding for English authorities for 2019-20 and an additional £45 million for the disabled facilities grant in England in 2018-19.

A further £84 million will expand children's social care programmes.

Setting out a new mandatory business rates relief for public lavatories, Mr Hammond joked it meant councils can now "relieve themselves".

And local highways authorities will benefit from a £420 million fund to tackle potholes, bridge repairs and other minor works.

Local Government Association (LGA) chairman Lord Porter said: "Today's Budget shows the Government has started to listen to the LGA's call for desperately needed investment in our under-pressure local services, but falls short of what we need in the long-term.

"Councils were at the front of the queue when austerity started so local services should be at the front of the queue if it is coming to an end."

While the social care funding will ease some of the immediate pressures facing councils "this cannot be a one-off", he said.

"Local government in England continues to face significant funding gaps and rising demand for adult social care, children's services and homelessness support will continue to threaten other services our communities rely on, like running libraries, cleaning streets and maintaining park spaces.

"Councils also continue to face huge uncertainty about how they will pay for local services into the next decade and beyond."

Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Kent County Council, said: "The funding announced will help protect social care services, help meet the rising demand for care, and support fixing potholes."

But he added "there still remains uncertainty over our future funding levels for councils".

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