Council services cut by 40% since 2010 amid rising social care costs – report

The growing cost of social care has meant councils have been forced to slash funding by 40% for other services, a report has found.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published its first annual report on local government finance, which shows council budgets are increasingly focused on meeting statutory duties, and often little else.

Data collated by the think tank shows that the pressures of budget cuts, reforms to the way councils are funded by central government and demographic shifts have hit council coffers.

The report found that 57% of councils’ non-education service budgets now go to adults’ and children’s social care, with per-person spending on other services falling by 40% on average over the last decade.

Cuts have been largest in poorer parts of the country, averaging 31% for the 15 council areas with the highest levels of deprivation, compared with 16% for the 15 council areas with the lowest levels of deprivation, since 2009-10.

Spending on routine road maintenance is down 53% per resident since 2009-10, with spending on bus passes now accounting for a quarter of all highways and transport spending by councils, up from 15%.

Councils’ net income from parking is up 47% per resident – from £490 million to £920 million in total during the same time frame.

Tom Harris, a research economist at the IFS, said councils have adapted to a decade of cuts by focusing their spending on their most needy residents and meeting their legal obligations.

He added: “This has meant big cuts to a whole raft of other services, and looking ahead it may be difficult to squeeze much more money from these if councils find their budgets under further pressure.

“Indeed, in councils that have had to make bigger-than-average cuts over the last decade, it’s bigger cuts to social care that have largely allowed them to do this.”

IFS associate director David Phillips said: “More deprived councils with smaller tax bases find their revenues falling behind their neighbours with bigger tax bases.

“The next government will have to make important subjective – indeed political – decisions about how redistributive our local government funding system should be within its first year of office.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.