Gary Porter wants to be a unifying force in local government

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online 

LGA cannot afford to sit on the fence over distribution of funding

25 June, 2015 | By Sarah Calkin

The incoming chair of the Local Government Association has pledged to avoid sitting “on the fence”, despite having to represent the interests of members from across the political spectrum

Gary Porter (Con) told LGC he would find ways for the association to present a united front on difficult issues, such as how funding should be distributed across local government.

Under the current finance regime, councils in the most deprived areas have suffered some of the largest cuts compared with authorities in relatively wealth areas.  “If anything happens in this year it won’t be because we’ve got splinters,” he said. “We cannot afford to sit on the fence because then we’ll have the whole world designed against us.”

Asked whether the LGA would advocate a return to a means of funding distribution which was more based on need, Cllr Porter said it was not the only valid way of distributing funding.  The funding regime should, however, become “more sophisticated”.  “Needs based on poverty alone generally miss some parts of the country where there is real poverty masked by a general economic wellbeing,” he said.

He added that Labour councils should be confident he would represent their interests as he was not “a tribal politician”.  “In some of the things I do I’m probably more left wing than some of the Labour councils: I bought the dustbins back in-house, grounds maintenance back in-house, kept my council houses.”

Early figures reveal cuts of 16% for some councils

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
8 August, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Councils forced to revamp their savings plans after early sight of their individual funding allocations revealed cuts as high as 16% in 2015-16.

The indicative allocation figures, released last month by the Department for Communities & Local Government, have caused alarm within local government which had expected cuts of around 10%.

Councils suffering the deepest cuts have warned they could now be pushed towards a ‘doom’ scenario where services would have to be closed and vital growth plans ditched.

The extent of the cuts is the result of a series of ‘top slices’ taken from councils’ revenue support grant to fund central government programmes, such as the ‘Dilnot new burdens’ budget announced by the chancellor last month.

The hardest hit councils have been told their funding settlement assessment could fall by 16% in 2015-16. Only two authorities, Wokingham BC and Surrey CC, face cuts of less than 10%.

North Kesteven is among 69 councils facing a 16% cut. Deputy chief executive Alan Thomas said the authority might have to rethink its growth priorities. Its previous £1.75m saving plan will now have to be increased to £2.25m, equivalent to 15% of its £11.5m a year net budget.

Mr Thomas said the Conservative-run council might also review its existing policy of reserving New Homes Bonus payments for infrastructure spending. “I think we are going to have to take a different view of that now and use quite a bit of that New Homes Bonus to support core spending, otherwise we won’t be able to balance the books,” he said.

The authority was already reeling from the “absolutely devastating” government announcement that up to 35% of New Homes Bonus income will be handed to local enterprise partnerships from 2015-16, he added.

Districts and inner London boroughs were the hardest hit group of councils in 2015-16, facing 15% cuts on average. Outer London boroughs, metropolitan districts and unitaries face reductions of 14%; counties will see an average reduction of 13%.

David Huxtable (Con), cabinet member for resources at Somerset CC, which faces a 15% cut, said the reduction matched its most pessimistic plan and would have “a huge impact on services”.

He said: “We will have to stop doing things… We will only be looking after statutory services.”

While the early release of individual figures for 2015-16 has been welcomed, treasurers bodies are due to meet senior civil servants to discuss missing details in the coming months.

Brian Roberts, former president of the Society of County Treasurers and Leicestershire CC director of corporate resources, said: “Having these before the summer recess is very helpful. But there is still a lot of uncertainty.”

Yet another doom and gloom report for us to digest

Copyright LocalGov.co.uk
£48bn of spending cuts needed by 2018, argues report
Jonathan Werran

Alarming public finance figures indicating further eye-watering cuts and prolonged austerity suggest the Government should focus on localising public finances and economic growth, a think tank has urged.
An analysis issued today by cross-party think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF) and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), based on models used by independent forecasters the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), indicate an extra £48bn of additional tax hikes or spending cuts will be required by 2018.
According to the report, Fiscal Fallout, the likelihood of a greater than anticipated black hole in the nation’s finances – the March Budget implied only £26bn of cuts would be needed beyond the current Spending Review period – suggests unprotected Whitehall departments will see their budgets shrink by nearly a quarter (23%).
In effect departments would face sharper yearly cuts of 3.7% between 2015 and 2018, compared with 2.3% under the current Spending Review – making some departments like the Home Office and Ministry of Justice 40% smaller than they were at the start of the decade.
To balance the demands of deficit-reduction and public service reform, the RSA argues for a radical re-evaluation of how public services are delivered, focusing on localising public finances, promoting preventative services and promoting ideas like localised spending on growth.
Report author and director of the SMF, Ian Mulheirn said the OBR’s modelling shows the economy has less room to bounce back. ‘Combined with high public borrowing since March this implies a much bigger black hole in the public finances, making the stakes for the next spending review higher than ever.’
‘Combined with the savings pencilled in at the last Budget, the developments since March mean that the Chancellor will have to lay out some eye-waering cuts at the next spending review and will prolong austerity deep into the next parliament.
Ben Lucas, chair of public services at the RSA said: ‘Faced with the unprecedented level of cuts to public spending outlined by the SMF, we can’t continue to tinker around with a model of public services that was designed in the 1940s. What’s needed is a radical new approach based on social productivity which moves away from Whitehall towards local-based collaboration, integration and shared services.’