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Councils warn Osborne over further austerity cuts

Council leaders in England and Wales have warned the Chancellor about the impact of further austerity measures on local authority services.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wrote to The Observer newspaper at the weekend to say councils have already had cuts of 40% since 2010 and cannot find more savings without serious consequences.

The letter comes from David Sparks, the senior Labour representative on the LGA, although the local election results on 7 May returned the body to Conservative control after a year of Labour being the largest party.

Sparks was representing all 375 authorities in the LGA.

“The new government must consider the consequences that further funding cuts, without radical reform of the way public money is spent, will have on the services which bind our communities together and protect the most vulnerable,” he said.

He added: “Vital services – such as collecting bins, filling potholes, maintaining our parks and green spaces, caring for the elderly – would struggle to continue at current levels.”

Chancellor George Osborne announced at the weekend there would be an emergency budget on 8 July in which he will say how he intends to cut £12bn from Britain’s welfare bill and other austerity measures.

“I am going to take the unusual step of having a second budget of the year – because I don’t want to wait to turn the promises we made in the election into a reality… And I can tell you it will be a budget for working people,” he said.

In Feburary, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management published a report indicating how innovative councils had been coping with the spending cuts.

The letter in full

Local authorities have made £20bn savings since 2010 following reductions in government funding of 40%. Councils have worked hard to shield residents from the impact. However, efficiencies cannot be remade or buildings resold. Further local government funding reductions over the next five years is not an option. The new government must consider the consequences that further cuts, without radical reform of the way public money is spent, will have on the services that bind our communities and protect the most vulnerable.

Vital services, such as collecting bins, filling potholes and caring for the elderly, would struggle to continue at current levels. It would leave other parts of the public sector, such as the NHS, left to pick up the pieces of councils scaling back services. If our public services are to survive the next few years, councils need fairer funding and the freedom to pay for them. The public sector has to stop working in silos and join up even more.

We need a new settlement for England that devolves decisions about infrastructure, transport, housing, skills and health and social care to local areas so they can tackle the big issues facing residents. Councils could then ensure elderly and disabled people receive the care they deserve, young people are equipped with skills to find local jobs, desperately needed homes are built, roads are maintained to high standards and every child has a place at a good school.

David Sparks, chairman of the Local Government Association, representing 375 councils

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