COUNCIL chiefs are scared that local authorities are reaching a tipping point under Tory rule with vital services at risk of closure.
As Chancellor George Osborne prepares to make massive cuts in public spending in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, a poll conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy revealed yesterday that 49 per cent of 237 finance bosses who responded said they were less confident than a year ago and 56 per cent had more concerns about their authority’s overall financial position.
And new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that total expenditure by local authorities in England has fallen by 8 per cent overall since Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in 2010, from £104.3 billion to £95.9 billion. Spending on roads and transport has dropped by a fifth, education budgets have fallen by 24 per cent in five years and planning and development budgets have dropped by 41 per cent.
Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter said: “With councils already struggling to keep services running and facing almost £10 billion in additional cost pressures by the end of the decade, it is clear that a similar funding cut again would mean that some councils would have to review how they deliver their statutory duties.
“The ability of councils to provide many of the services people take for granted like clean and well-lit streets, maintained parks and access to leisure centres could become significantly impacted.
“Vital services, such as caring for the elderly, protecting children, collecting bins, filling potholes and maintaining our parks and green spaces could struggle to continue at current levels.”
A Newcastle-upon-Tyne Council spokesman said libraries and leisure centres in the area were bound to be shut down.
“We’re getting to the point that it’s children and adult social care that’s at risk,” he said.
“These are the areas, because they are the biggest part of our spend, there’s nowhere else to turn to find that level of spending savings.”
There was an all-out strike among south London’s Lambeth librarians last week in response to council plans to turn into gyms, sell or close down all of its 10 libraries.