For the past few years, the annual Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Summer Reception has coincided with a bit of political turmoil. The EU referendum, a snap general election and this year – defining what Brexit means or doesn’t mean.
But like local government itself, the Local Government APPG (for which LGiU provides the secretariat) carries on regardless. Just like the bins still need emptying, local government still wrestles with the implementation of new duties and old, see – for example – the recent Local Government APPG meeting looking at new homelessness duties.
The summer reception is an opportunity to celebrate the APPG’s work facilitating local and central government to meet and challenge each other on specific policy issues, but also to celebrate the good work of local government in general and highlight it to Parliamentarians and other stakeholders.
This year, we were lucky to have the committed Local Government APPG chair Martin Vickers MP say a few words along with Rishi Sunak MP, the Secretary of State for Local Government who has responsibility for, among other things, local government finance and the Fair Funding Review.
It was a refreshing, but sobering, talk from Mr Sunak. He acknowledged the contributions of local government and also that councils had taken on a disproportionate share of the burden of austerity and that he would be talking with colleagues in Government to ensure they understood. He promised that he was hearing the message from local government loud and clear in advance of the Spending Review. However, he could not promise that all councils would be equally happy with the outcomes of the Fair Funding Review.
At LGiU, we think there has not been enough creative action in terms of developing local funding streams which are resilient across economic cycles and provides councils with some kind of budget certainty in the face of rising demands and increasing duties. This is why we launched our Local Finance Taskforce in February (with support from our members) and, at this week’s APPG reception, our Local Government Finance Scorecard, a framework for the Taskforce’s consultation on local government finance reform post 2020 which the Minister welcomed as part of the conversation.
The Scorecard highlights funding that is being talked about (business rates) and funding that isn’t (e.g. tourism tax). Business Rate Retention and the Fairer Funding Review are important steps towards reforming local government finance; but we believe that to achieve a sustainable system we need a much broader and more radical conversation. We think that conversation needs to cover five key areas and a raft of topics that all have pros and cons but which should all be part of the discussion.
Full details of the Scorecard will be launched in the coming days. We look forward to engaging with as many of you as possible around the consultation as we ensure the final outcome is presented to the Government and key spokespeople such as Mr Sunak as we try to find fiscal solutions to tough funding problems.
This ideas card is an initial framework for the LGiU’s Local Finance Taskforce consultation on local government finance reform post 2020. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us what you think, or to contribute to the debate.