Council chiefs have met local government minister, Lee Rowley MP, as part of a long-running campaign calling for fair funding.
The positive discussion follows constructive talks with the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in Westminster and saw leads set out a pragmatic, temporary fix which would see Government put in an extra £350m to level up 32 of the lowest funded councils.
Last week’s meeting coincided with the publication of a council budget update which shows a £9m overspend this year as the costs of children’s and adult social care rocket.
Inflation, the National Living Wage and increasing pressures on vital services are driving up the council’s costs and could push its budget shortfall over £100m by 2027. Last Friday’s cabinet meeting (15 September) heard that intensive work is taking place focusing on managing future demand and close management of costs will continue to reduce the forecast overspend.
I’d like to thank the minister for coming to see us in Leicestershire.
Our latest financial forecast typifies the grim reality facing councils up and down the country. Let me be clear – we’re not about to issue a section 114 notice. We’re super-efficient and pride ourselves on doing the best we can with the money we have, but spiralling costs are making it much harder to keep our head above water. With many other well run authorities also facing similar pressures, local government is reaching new territory.
We have a credible solution which can be implemented quickly and the minister reassured us he would take our comments back to Government.
erson:Leader of Leicestershire County Council, Nick Rushton
Lee Rowley MP, local government minister, said: “I would like to thank Cllr Rushton, Cllr Bedford, Cllr Taylor, Cllr Breckon, and Cllr Ashman for their time and for meeting with me to discuss Leicestershire and their proposals for the Local Government Finance Settlement.
“In particular, I welcomed and am grateful for the very helpful conversation we had on the council's funding and the pressure that the council is currently seeing in some service areas. The government will bring forward its proposals for the Local Government Finance Settlement 2024-25 in the usual way later in the year and it is always very useful to get frontline feedback as to what is happening at the current time.
“I look forward to our continuing engagement in the months ahead.”
Leicestershire is the lowest funded county council in the country and has long been calling for funding reform. Cabinet leads Nick Rushton, Deborah Taylor, Lee Breckon, Peter Bedford and Robert Ashman met Lee Rowley last Thursday (14 September) at County Hall.
Councillor Lee Breckon, cabinet member for resources, added: “The minister was keen to hear our views. We know that national funding is stretched but our feedback is reaching the right people.
“After saving £250m since 2010, we’re already a very lean organisation – and we can't be expected to carry on as we are without help. All we can do is continue to operate efficiently and target our resource at those who need it the most.”
Watch Friday’s cabinet meeting online at: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/webcast
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- The update comes as growing number of councils report significant overspends. County Councils’ Network chair, Cllr Tim Oliver, has said that high inflation and rising demand have left its member authorities ‘facing some of their toughest budgetary decisions to date’ whilst CIPFA associate director, Andrew Burns, is quoted in Public Finance Magazine saying that we’re beginning to traditionally well run and led councils ‘starting to report that they are under financial pressure from service demand and the cost of living’.
- The council has saved £250m since 2010 and has a yearly budget of £512m.
- If Leicestershire was funded at the average level for English councils, it would receive an extra £130m a year.