It is hugely disappointing that the Budget offered nothing to ease the financial crisis facing local services in Gloucestershire. Funding gaps and rising demand for adult social care and children’s services are threatening the vital services which care for our elderly and disabled, protect children and support families. This is also having a huge knock on effect on the other services which our communities rely on. By 2020, almost 60p in every £1 that people pay in council tax will have to be spent caring for children and adults, leaving increasingly little to fund other services like road maintenance and repair.
The lack of affordable housing to rent is one of the most pressing issues we face in the Forest. The last time that this country built more than 250,000 homes a year was in the 1970s and almost half were built by Councils. If the Government are serious about solving the housing crisis it needs to ensure that councils in all areas of the country are given greater freedom to borrow to build. The lifting of the borrowing cap went some way towards this, but does not go far enough.
The money that local government has to deliver services is running out fast and councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap in just two years. It is essential that authorities such as the Forest of Dean must be able to keep every penny of business rates collected to plug funding gaps. The Government should use the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement to make this happen
Only with sufficient funding and greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services can local government generate economic growth, build homes, strengthen communities and provide care and support for the vulnerable. so, sorry Mr Harper, your Chancellor avoided any “banana skins” but overall there was very little to lift our spirits.