Council services to close en masse!

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Demonstration in Barnet against the sell-off of all the council’s services
Demonstration in Barnet against the sell-off of all the council’s services

LIBRARIES, children’s centres, leisure centres and other vital services such as refuse collection and road maintenance will be axed as a result of funding cuts over the next two years, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned yesterday.

become increasingly visible over the next two years as councils tackle a further £20 billion cut in government funding, warned the LGA.

‘In many areas where the well of efficiency savings has run dry, councils are on the verge of a tipping point where they will not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities,’ it said.

‘Government funding given to councils to run local services will have been cut by 40 per cent by May 2015,’ it warned.

‘LGA modelling, which factors in reduced funding and rising demand for adult social care, shows that money available to provide popular services like running gyms, parks, libraries and youth centres is likely to shrink by 66 per cent by the end of the decade,’ said the LGA.

Its survey found:

l 2015/16 is the year in which three in five councils say there are no efficiencies left to be made or efficiencies alone will not be enough to tackle that year’s cuts. They will be unable to meet their budget gap solely through efficiency savings.

• Only one in five councils believes next year’s cuts can be covered by efficiency savings alone.

• Two in five councils will be looking to stem the impact of cuts by raising more income through fees and charges, such as increasing charges for discretionary services like leisure centres to a level where they are self-funding and less reliant on money raised through taxation.

• Almost half of councils (48 per cent) are set to use money set aside in reserves as a short-term fix to balance budgets and delay the impact of cuts next year.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Vice-Chairman of the LGA, said: ‘Faced with the biggest cuts in living memory, councils have restructured and shared services where it has been possible and have made the most efficient part of the public sector even more efficient.

‘However, efficiency savings cannot be remade and we are now reaching the end of the road.

‘Local authorities have strived to shield residents from the impact of cuts, but with another £20 billion worth of savings to be found, we’re approaching a tipping point where options are fast running out.

‘The next two years will be the toughest yet for those who use and rely upon the popular local services councils provide.’

The LGA’s findings echo those of The Bookseller earlier in the year, which warned of a ‘state of emergency’ in the library service.

Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign, said: ‘We could reach a tipping point before the end of the year, where we have lost a level of service that we will never be able to get back.’

A Unison spokesman told News Line yesterday: ‘Local government is in the eye of the storm. This government is doing all it can to destroy local government and local democracy in the name of paying down the deficit.

‘Local government will soon be unable to meet its statutory responsiblities. The Tories won’t change their tune, so we need to change the government.’