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Unions urge incoming government to commit to fair funding of local councils

‘Hopefully the nightmarish austerity experiment will soon be over after 14 long years.’

Unions are calling on the new government to commit to fair funding of local councils.

Sharon Wilde, national officer for GMB, described how, for years, members of the GMB working for councils have suffered real-terms pay cuts and been forced to prop up “creaking councils with huge amounts of unpaid overtime.”

“Hopefully the nightmarish austerity experiment will soon be over after 14 long years – but whoever is in charge next year, GMB will demand all local government pay offers are fully funded by central government,” Wilde continued.

Clare Keogh, national officer of Unite, said that over the last 14 years, local government has been “decimated.” She is calling on the next government to “commit to properly and fairly funding the sector.”

“Services are already stretched far too thin. The situation is at breaking point and further job losses cannot be the answer,” said Keogh.

The calls were made following a new study by the Local Government Association (LGA), the national membership body for local authorities, which found that councils face a funding gap of £6.2 billion.

The newly published Local Government White Paper sets out how a new relationship between central government and local government, which provides long-term financial certainty and empowers councils, is the “only way for whoever forms the next government to solve the issues facing the country.”

The LGA says that the huge funding gap has been fuelled by increasing demand and costs for homelessness support, children’s services, adult social care, and transport for children with disabilities and special needs.

A recent LGA survey found two-thirds of councils have already had to make cutbacks to local neighbourhood services this year (2024/25), including road repairs, waste collections, and library and leisure services, as they struggle to plug funding gaps.

The LGA is urging all political parties to commit to a “significant and sustained” increase in funding. Without the changes, “a chasm will continue to grow between what people and their communities need and want from their councils and what councils can deliver,” warns Kevin Bentley, senior vice chairman of the LGA.

The White Paper is also urging the new government to urgently commission a comprehensive review of public service reform. This review should explore how various public services can collaboratively operate within local communities, highlighting a unified strategy for investing in preventative services for people in need, says the LGA.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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