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).