Services 'to end over council cash'

Local authorities need an 'immediate injection of money' so public libraries and leisure centres do not disappear from our streets, the LGA said

Local authorities need an 'immediate injection of money' so public libraries and leisure centres do not disappear from our streets, the LGA said

First published in National News © by

Public libraries and leisure centres may disappear by the end of the decade unless councils receive an "immediate injection of money", a new report has warned.

The money to fund popular services will shrink by 90% as adult social care and other statutory responsibilities soak up almost all of the cash they spend, according to the financial projection by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The "conservative estimates" contained in the report show that by 2020 a £16.5 billion funding shortfall will exist between the amount of money available to councils to provide services and the predicted cost of maintaining them at current levels.

It comes as a YouGov poll found that libraries and leisure facilities are the most popular services provided by councils. Over a third of those asked (39%) said they had used or experienced a public library in the last year, with 27% saying they visited a council-run leisure facility.

The LGA, which represents 373 councils in England and Wales, called on the Government to introduce "long overdue" reform of how adult social care is paid for and give councils access to more resources.

The report says a 28% cut in the amount of money councils receive from central government between 2010/11 and 2014/15 will contribute considerably to the funding shortfall. It found that the rising cost of providing social care and waste services meant the money available to deliver all other services would fall from £24.5 billion in 2010/11 to £8.4 billion in 2019/20.

The gap between the money available for providing services and the predicted cost of maintaining them at current levels starts at £1.4 billion in 2012/13 and widens every year to reach £16.5 billion in 2019/20. Spending on care would pass 45% of council budgets by 2019/20, it said.

The LGA called on the Government to examine the possibility of applying an integrated "community budgets" model to more local services. Their use with troubled families, consolidating services from across the public sector, can dramatically lower costs and improve results, it said.

Local government minister Bob Neill said: "The old system of government 'begging bowl' handouts is flawed. Our fair finance reforms will give all councils the chance to gain and stand tall, potentially delivering an extra £10 billion boost to the wider economy, helping support local jobs and local firms, whilst still protecting frontline services and vulnerable communities."

"Councils must continue to make savings by sharing back offices, getting more for less from the £60 billion-a-year procurement budget, utilising their £10 billion of reserves, tackling the £2 billion of local fraud, or reducing in-house management and overhead costs. If councils follow this approach, it could potentially save billions of taxpayers' money across the country."

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