Austerity drive has ‘gone too far’ with councils struggling ‘to keep their heads above water’

A spending squeeze on councils is creating an “untenable and unsustainable” situation, ministers have been told.

The Government heard that its austerity drive had left some local authorities struggling “to keep their heads above water” and provide the minimum essential services.

Peers highlighted the financial plight facing councils as they urged steps “to put local government on a sound footing”.

Liberal Democrat peer and city councillor Lord Scriven said the belt-tightening had “gone too far and it is damaging”.

He said: “Some local authorities are finding it nearly impossible to keep their heads above water. Struggling to provide the minimum statutory services.”

Highlighting the budget shortfalls, Lord Scriven (pictured) said: “The situation is getting untenable and unsustainable.

“It’s time to stop the short-term sticking plasters and start to think about what is needed strategically.

“A partnership of equals between Whitehall and local government is needed if we are going to go back to local government playing it’s true role in communities.”

Urging extra “no strings” cash for councils, based on deprivation and need, he said: “We should fund them properly and give them the powers and the space to create great communities.”

Lord Kerslake, president of the Local Government Association and former civil service chief said despite the “extraordinary, unprecedented” reduction in funding “local government has kept the show on the road”.

However, he pointed out there had also been a “marked decline in local services and public satisfaction with local government”.

The independent crossbencher argued there had been “a failure to develop a sustainable model for local government finance”.

Lord Kerslake added: “We urgently need a longer term plan to put local government on a sound footing.

“We need a strong well-funded local government, not just because they deliver vital services but because they play an essential role in creating a fairer and more prosperous Britain.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) UK Parliament.