In this year of unprecedented worldwide economic and social disruption, caused by a global health pandemic, just getting through 2020 will have been a major personal achievement for most of us working in councils and other public services.
Therefore it was perhaps inevitable that the Government’s planned review of public spending would get downgraded from a comprehensive, three-year plan to the one-year Spending Review delivered by chancellor Rishi Sunak last month.
Nevertheless, councils have continued to go above and beyond the call of duty. They have kept the day-to-day services running which we all rely on, while also delivering on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, protecting vulnerable residents and supporting local businesses.
It was good to see the Spending Review acknowledge some of local government’ s incredible work during the pandemic and of the huge pressures councils and their staff continue to face, with announcements on extra funding providing some short-term financial certainty.
As we head into 2021, recent news on vaccines has given us some hope that the worst of the pandemic may be over by spring. We also need to look further ahead to provide the long-term certainty councils need to help build back better.
For example, we need a sustainable adult social care system. In our response to the Spending Review, we said council tax increases via the social care precept are a sticking-plaster approach and will place an extra burden on households already struggling with the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods and health.
No new public health funding, despite this incredibly challenging period, also runs contrary to addressing the stark health inequalities exposed by COVID-19 and government ambitions to ‘level up’ our communities.
Investment in our local public services is critical to our national recovery next year and beyond. Only with the right funding and freedoms can councils lead local efforts to tackle the inequalities the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated, and ensure an economic recovery which benefits everyone.
Cllr James Jamieson is chairman of the Local Government Association.
Read the LGA’s Spending Review response at: https://www.local.gov.uk/lga-responds-spending-review