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Local service standards affect everyone’s quality of life

Mum and

Local service standards really matter to all local people but some more than others. Many of the people Citizens Advice works with are in the latter group.

‘Everyday’ services make a huge difference to the lives of individuals, families and the community. So much is obvious to local policymakers elected to deliver on residents’ needs and expectations.

Recently however public debate has focused on the pressures and future prospects of local government and local services.

Struggling to make ends meet

First, a high-profile Local Government Information Unit report*:

“It is a familiar story of councils struggling to deliver essential services with inadequate funding pulling all of the levers available to them to make ends meet….”

Councillors everywhere worry that as local taxes and charges rise residents will find themselves paying more for less.

For councils with some key responsibilities the report continues:

“Adults and children’s social care together make up the most serious long-term pressure”. For those without “housing and homelessness is the most serious short-term and long-term pressure, with environment and waste a close second place”.

So too in Surrey

Surrey County Council published its 2024-25 Budget last month**. The council leader explained council tax would rise to the highest permitted level. They would spend:

70% of total revenue budget on caring for people with complex needs and disabilities, elderly people and children in care”.

EEBC too has commented on the high and rising costs of meeting statutory responsibilities, particularly providing temporary accommodation for homeless people.

Spring Budget

Second, this month’s Spring Budget led to concern about the funding of local services in the coming year and beyond.

The independent Resolution Foundation*** said that current plans:

“imply £19 billion a year cuts to the day-to-day spending power of unprotected departments like Justice, the Home Office and local government by the end of the [5-year] forecast period”.

Last month we quoted the LGIU saying council leaders had never been so worried about the future of local services. Their concern was particularly for the vulnerable in society.

We share that concern. But more cuts to care homes, buses, libraries, bin collections, street cleaning and lights would also obviously affect the whole community. As would lower spending on justice. Any reductions in the police, prisons, courts or probation have most impact at street and household level.

At Citizens Advice we advocate for policy to improve the lives of clients. Many can’t afford essential household bills or are living with a disability, poor health or other vulnerability. It’s in everyone’s interest to ensure these people receive the targeted support they need to play a full part in society.

Equally however isn’t it in everyone’s interest that all elected representatives recognise the central role of local services in all our lives and make policy accordingly?

* The State of Local Government Finance in England 2024. Local Government Information Unit, 28/02/24
** Surrey County Council Budget approved, Surrey News, 06/02/24
*** ‘Sweet and sour’ Budget combines £8 billion election year personal tax cuts with post-election plans for £38 billion of tax rises and spending cuts, Resolution Foundation, 06/03/24.

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