Neighbourhood services and sustainable local government

This report from the UK think tank New Policy Institute builds an argument for a sustained increase in local government spending on neighbourhood services.

The report’s argument is supported by an analysis of how a sustained increase in local government spending on neighbourhood services might be distributed across the 70 or so different services. Grouped under the broad headings of highways and transportation, environment and regulation, culture, and planning, neighbourhood services are roughly speaking what councils do that is neither education, housing nor social care. In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer held out the prospect that this year’s Spending Review would mark the end of a decade-long period of austerity for public spending. Over the five years beginning in 2020/21, public spending would rise in real terms (that is, after inflation) by 1.2 per cent each year. Set against what local government has experienced since 2009/10, this would be a welcome but still cautious step. By 2017/18, UK local government expenditure had fallen by 19 per cent in real terms while local authority spending on neighbourhood services across Great Britain had fallen by 27 per cent. The Chancellor has also said that in the absence of a deal on Brexit, a long-term spending review may be ‘inappropriate’. So even this cautious end to austerity is uncertain. Against this background, this report sets out to answer what may sound like a simple question, namely, what extra resources should neighbourhood services be looking for as a result of the spending review?

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