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Wednesday budget - "more trick than treat"

October 29, 2021 5:39 PM

Here's a summary of the Spending Review from the Local Government Association Lib Dems:

  • It ignores the climate emergency. Working with local government to tackle this was given a very low profile in the budget and the reduction in Air Passenger duty while hiking up rail fares is laughable for a Government pledging to tackle global warming, all on the eve of the COP26 conference. What a massive own goal!
  • It lets our kids down. Only £1.8 billion in extra catch up funding which is a pittance, but the Government found £3.8 billion to reduce the banking surcharge and give tax cuts to their friends, the bankers.
  • It says nothing about the underfunding of social care, letting our elderly and vulnerable down. Care services have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and it is a real tragedy (but no surprise) that no extra funding to address existing pressures on care and support have been provided. Not caring for those in need just puts more pressure on the NHS. Again the council taxpayer will be expected to foot the bill. How many times do we need to tell them that we need £1.1 billion a year just to cover existing costs?
  • No increase in public health funding to stop people getting ill in the first place, despite this incredibly challenging period. It runs contrary to addressing the stark health inequalities exposed by COVID-19 and levelling up our communities. Local authorities' public health grant has been cut by 24 per cent on a real-terms basis since 2015.
  • Police continue to be underfunded. In March 2021, there were 135,301 full time equivalent police officers. Ten years earlier in March 2011, there were 139,110. Factor in staff turnover and those leaving the force and numbers are not likely to rise. When Ministers talk about extra officers they don't count the ones who leave.
  • Councils will be expected to raise council tax by 3 per cent every year to meet what Government believes they should be able to spend. So it is a real "trick" budget ....

... but there were a few treats:

  • £300 million to implement free food waste collections in every local authority in England from 2025 - but what will happen for those councils which did the right thing and have been running these for years?
  • £500 million Multiply Fund announced in the Spending Review to help support adults improve their numeracy skills - but it is disappointing that important and long promised UK Shared Prosperity funding is being pre-allocated to nationally determined schemes.
  • LGA lobbied for extra SEN funding. £2.6 billion for school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which will help councils provide places locally, rather than children having to travel to get support. The Government should urgently complete its ongoing review of the SEND system to ensure funding is on a stable long term footing.
  • To support the uptake of electric vehicles, the Government will provide an additional £620 million for public charging in residential areas and targeted plug-in vehicle grants.
  • An additional £1.8 billion for housing supply, to unlock over 1 million new homes. This includes £300 million locally-led grant funding that will be distributed to Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Authorities to unlock smaller brownfield sites, and £1.5 billion to regenerate underused land and deliver transport links and community facilities, unlocking 160,000 homes in total.

You can find the LGA On-the-Day Briefing in more details.

Liberal Democrats are demanding a fair deal for families and an investment in future generations. We want to see support for vulnerable families, a resolution to the social care funding crisis, more investment in skills and our children's education and more funding for tackling the climate emergency, and we will carry on campaigning to do just that.