Welcome to the June edition of the Local Government Finance policy update!
This month we look at examples of entrepreneurial councils and how cyber security, digital infrastructure and the investment landscape might impact council’s innovation ambitions. We give you an update on the state of local government finance and business rates, now that the Local Government Finance Bill has fallen. And we point you towards our fascinating briefing series on local government abroad (members-only).
Crowdfunding is taking off in local government – in Public Finance this month, Kim Thomas used our Guide to Crowdfunding as a starting point to explore approaches taken by different councils. Elsewhere, Swindon Borough Council became the first council to use the Abundance investment platform, allowing residents to invest in its renewable energy project.
However, councils may face new obstacles to their investment ambitions. The Financial Conduct Authority recently downgraded local authority pension funds to retail investor status and the Guardian reports that councils are under pressure to follow the lead of global investment funds like Axa in divesting pension fund stocks in tobacco.
On the LGiU blog this month, we have been thinking about the importance of digital strategy. Head of Projects Lauren Lucas highlights the need for robust cyber security, and Senior Researcher Ingrid Koehler talks about our latest report on councillors’ attitudes to digital.
Local government finance
A report by APSE has warned that council spending on neighbourhood services has dropped £3bn in the past five years and they argue that these services need defending in their own right as a core function of local government.
In a similar vein, David Philips at the IFS outlines the tensions between local and central government as the pressure from social care spending mounts, while Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley, asks what council collapse looks like and whether it’s already arrived in some places.
Over in the Telegraph a coalition of businesses alongside with Centre for Cities lead a call for faster fiscal devolution to English regions.
The fall of the Local Government Finance Bill means councils have even less clue about how they will be funded post-2020 – LGiU Researcher Jennifer Glover asks what this means for local government over on the blog, and elsewhere LGC explores the likelihood of the 100% Business Rates Retention being picked back up by the new government.
In the here and now, SMEs and local authorities are trying to work out how the business rates relief promised by Sajid Javid in April is going to work, and are caught in the purdah/general election information black hole as the payment delay grows.
Local government abroad
In a series of policy briefings, we’ve been looking at examples of local government from abroad, a fascinating whirlwind tour of South Africa, France, Australia, Canada and New Zealand [LGiU member organisations only].
This article is taken from the monthly policy update email on local government finance. Sign up here to get the next one straight to your inbox!
Photo: Katie Thebeau via flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/katiethebeau/