Independence...Integrity...Value

Blog 18th February 2019

Feb 18th, 13:29

Blog 18th February 2019

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Service Charges; National Lottery Heritage Fund; Local Government Information Unit; Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy; Clive Betts MP; Parliamentary Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee; Public Finance; Local Government Association; Local Government Finance; Local Authority Housing Finance; Publications, Seminars and Training.

Last week I presented our seminar: ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ in London. As usual, it was received well. Delegates said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of presentation was good and that the training met their needs fully. They described the seminar as clear, interesting, practical, useful, comprehensive, enjoyable and thorough.

Our next session will be in Leeds on 4th June. For more information or to make a booking, please click here.

Our seminar on service charges is also available as an in-house session. For further information, please click here.

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Appleby Town Council, that owns Appleby Moot Hall (above) hopes to receive a National Lottery Hrritahe Fund Grant.

I attended a meeting with the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Carlisle last Friday at which they made a presentation about their Strategic Funding Framework for 2019-24. The presentation was made by Nathan Lee who is the Head of the Northwest Team at the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Vision and Ambition is:

“Inspiring, leading and resourcing the United Kingdom’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future”

The new Strategic Funding Framework marks a significant new direction. The new name is designed to increase public awareness. This year is the 25th anniversary of the national lottery. Lottery distributors are joining with the lottery to emphasise where the money comes from. Lottery players value the fact the money goes to good causes.

My notes from the meeting can be viewed or downloaded from here.

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Local Government Association offices in Smith Square, London.

A recent survey by the Local Government Information Unit has found that 97% of councils in England plan to raise council tax in 2019/20. Of these, three quarters will increase it by more than 2.5%. As councils face ongoing financial difficulty, 53% plan to dip into their reserves this year and 40% plan to do so two years running. A further 80% of councils said they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. Respondents expressed concern over their ability to deliver statutory services, with one in twenty (22 councils in England) suggesting they may not be able to deliver the legal minimum services for residents.

The survey found that 36% of councils said children’s services and education were the top immediate financial pressure; and adult social care is the top long-term financial pressure, according to 37% of councils. Despite this, 29% of local authorities plan to reduce activity in adult social care and 24% said they would cut children’s care services. Non-statutory services will also be cut, including libraries (32% of councils), arts and culture (46%), parks and leisure (45%), waste collection (22%), recycling (11%) and roads (38%).

Analysis by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy also found that up to 15% of councils in England are at risk of financial instability.

Clive Betts MP (Labour), the chair of the Parliamentary housing, communities and local government select committee has announced a wide-reaching parliamentary inquiry into local government finances. He told the ‘Public Finance’ magazine that:

“I think at some point we will go on and look at the whole issue of local government finance before the Spending Review – I think it will be right that we inform that… It will be a major piece of work – we haven’t formally announced it yet – but I think our intention is clear… there is increasing danger of a disconnect between the public and their councils”.

In a recent debate on the 2019/20 local government finance settlement and on the government’s ongoing Fair Funding Review (that will set new baseline funding allocations for local authorities based on relative needs and resources), Clive Betts encouraged MPs to stand up for local government to ensure it does better in the next Spending Review and has a better allocation of resources. He said that:

“I accept that this is a difficult and complicated job, but the government needs to be very careful that the process does not become seen as an exercise in financial gerrymandering – that would be very sad for local government.”

In my view this review is not before time.

My own work with the Local Government Association, assisting with its peer reviews by providing financial diagnostic reports, confirms that many local authorities are having trouble in funding essential services – especially adult social care and children’s services.

I have recently assisted the Local Government Association to develop Fair Funding Review modelling tools for the Local Government Association. These allow the LGA and its member authorities to model the effects of different options for the future funding of local government as part of the government's Fair Funding Review.

For more information about the Local Government Association's Fair Funding Review Modelling Tools and the role that AWICS has played, please click here

For more information about the Local Government Association's peer review programme and the role that AWICS plays please click here

We are also holding seminars on ‘All You Want to Know about Local Government Finance’ that will be held during May 2019. For further information or to make a booking, please click here.

Since writing my last blog we have published two new books. For more information or to order a copy, please click on the links below:

I have also updated my brochures on our publications in England and Wales. To view or download copies, please click on the links below:

I am currently putting together our next seminar on ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance 2019’ that will be held in London on 19th March 2019. This series of seminars gives an introduction and overview to this important subject and is fully up to date with all developments. It explains how the housing revenue account, housing general fund and housing capital programme works and considers the threats and opportunities facing local authority housing especially in view of the government's recent policy initiatives including the lifting of the 'borrowing cap'. The seminar is proving popular, but there are still a few places available.

For further information or to make a booking please click here

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