Report: LGiU MJ State of Local Government Finance Survey 2019

LGiU and The MJ have run the State of Local Government Finance Survey every January since 2012 to coincide with councils setting their annual budgets. The results give a snapshot of the key pressures facing councils and the impact of ongoing financial uncertainty on their communities.

The survey was sent to senior decision-makers at each of England’s 353 councils (Council Leaders, Chief Executives, Cabinet Members for Finance/Resources and Directors of Finance/Resources) between 9th January and 5th February 2019.

This year we received 158 responses from 123 individual councils, meaning that over a third of English councils are represented in the results. We received responses from a broad cross-section of councils, encompassing county, district and unitary authorities, a mixture of political control, and all regions.

The survey questions covered topics including income sources, confidence, service level spending and public trust.

Key findings include:

  • Eight in ten (80%) councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance; none said they were ‘very confident’.
  • 97% of councils plan to increase council tax in 2019-20, three quarters by more than 2.5% (the maximum increase without a referendum is 3% in most places).
  • Over half of councils (53%) plan to dip into their reserves this year. Worryingly, 40% of councils plan to use their reserves two years running.
  • Children’s Services and Education is the top immediate financial pressure for the second year running (36% of councils), ahead of Adult Social Care (23%) which has historically ranked highest. However Adult Social Care is still under severe strain, being named as the top longterm financial pressure (37% of councils).

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14 Feb 2019
Jennifer Glover
Local government finance
Full report (PDF, 1.33 MB)