Local authorities have said that being handed new responsibilities from central Government without sufficient consultation could have an adverse effect on their ability to provide other vital services, including refuse collection.
The Local Government Association (LGA) responded to a National Audit Office (NAO) report on the impact of the responsibilities, introduced in June 2011.
The NAO said in its report that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) should use intelligence better to improve its understanding of the pressures affecting local authorities’ financial sustainability.
It noted that funding to councils from Whitehall was cut by 37% in real terms between 2010 and 2016, taking into account the additional £8.2bn cost of localised public health.
The report recommended the DCLG should:
- publish completed assessments about new burdens to engage local government
- ensure assessments scrutinise sufficiently the disproportionate effect for some authorities of new burdens that have a low impact overall
- review its support, challenge and guidance to departments
- ensure that departments review burden assessments
LGA resources board chair, councillor Claire Kober, said: “As this [NAO] report rightly recognises, it is wrong for councils to have to reduce spending on vital services, such as caring for the elderly, collecting bins and fixing our roads, to meet the costs brought about by changes to national policy.
“The NAO’s helpful recommendations would improve the new burdens process and address the lack of transparency which has been a source of frustration among local authorities.
“We would urge the Government to go further and ensure new burdens are properly assessed and paid to councils before they incur any new costs in order to avoid other local services suffering as a result.”