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Councils urged to defend traditional services

Local authorities have been told to start making the case for services such as refuse and recycling, parks, highways and street lighting if they are to survive beyond 2020.

A report from the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) has found that, by the end of the decade, the combined current and capital spending by local government will be lower than at any time since before 1948.

The study, Sustainable local government finance and liveable local areas: Can we survive to 2020?, concludes that, if current trends continue, council tax will account for at least half the money coming into all English local authorities by 2020.

The report, produced by the New Policy Institute, argues that making the case for services such as waste management, with reference to the increased proportion of council spending that must go to social care, is no longer adequate. It says the introduction of the social care precept has “drawn the sting” from this argument.

Paul O’Brien, APSE chief executive, said: “Without adequate funding, we risk abandoning liveability services like parks, refuse and recycling, highways and street lighting to long-term decline.”

The report also calls for consideration of council tax reform and for councils to make more of opportunities to generate income through fees and charges.

It warns that the move to end the revenue support grant and allow councils to keep 100% of business rates income risks opening up a ”new dimension of inequality” depending on how strongly an authority can grow its business rate income.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister title LGC.

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