Annual Summit highlights the financial challenge for local authorities

3rd July 2018

The East of England LGA’s Annual Finance Summit, held on Friday 15th June at the Granta Centre in Cambridge, was a welcome opportunity for both officers and elected members to consider the future financial challenge facing the local government sector, as well as to hear about the efforts being made across the region in responding to this challenge.

A fairly bleak presentation from the National Audit Office kicked off the day, summarising the findings from their recent report "The Financial Sustainability of Local Authorities 2018". The very first slide of the day – reproduced below - certainly grabbed the attention of the audience and made clear the scale of the recent and ongoing reductions in the spending power of local authorities.



That these reductions have been taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty created by issues like Brexit, the local retention of Business Rates and the “Fair Funding Review” of Local Government being undertaken by MHCLG, was further highlighted by other specialist speakers throughout the day.

Notwithstanding the potentially gloomy picture, local government has shown great resilience over recent years and continues to look at ways to protect frontline services. To quote Iain MacBeath, Director of Adult Care Services for Hertfordshire County Council, “the sector is resilient and staff work tirelessly to ensure that those most in need continue to receive the support they deserve”.

Iain’s thoughts on the long-awaited Green Paper on the future funding of Social Care showed some grounds for optimism; the message may finally be getting through that Social Care is as much in need of additional funding as the National Health Service and, as has been proven time and again by local authorities, “investing in Adult Social Care gets results”.

Councillor Lewis Herbert, speaking at the summit on behalf of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, was optimistic about the opportunities for local authorities to work together to unlock strategic growth in their localities and across wider geographies. With an ambitious transport investment programme approaching £15Bn over the next 10 years and a new non-statutory Strategic Planning Framework in place, the Combined Authority has a long-term vision to bring businesses, jobs and housing to the area at a faster pace. The resultant financial benefits arising from additional Business Rates and Council Tax income, as well as the ability to reduce other public sector cost pressures arising from the under-supply of Affordable Homes in the area, formed a compelling story of local authorities being bold, ambitious, connected and demanding an ongoing role in shaping their places and communities.

Collaboration was very much a theme of the day – the Anglia Revenues Partnership outlining how their 7 local authority members had dealt collectively with the challenges of implementing Universal Credit and the leader of Suffolk Coastal, Councillor Ray Herring, describing how the 8 local authorities in Suffolk have come together to pilot Business Rates Retention using a shared theme of “inclusive growth”. Inspirational stories which demonstrate that, whatever the challenge and change occurring within the sector, local authorities will do whatever they can to ensure that they provide the best possible services for their local communities.

All of the presentations from the summit are available to view or download from the EELGA web-site at:
http://www.eelga.gov.uk/events/east_of_england_annual_finance_summit_2018/

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