Local government needs clarity, urges LGiU

The build up to the General Election was overwhelmed with uncertainty and the results have been produced little clarity, argues a local democracy think tank.

A blog post from Lauren Lucas, head of Projects at the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), says that local government ‘is desperately in need of some clear direction in a number of key policy areas’, including plans for further devolutions, the delivery of social care and the looming Brexit negotiations.

She argues that ‘in the absence of a strong national government’, it would be foolish to dismiss local government in seeking new government priorities, instead claiming that local government should be intrinsic in ‘ensuring communities work, local economies grow, people are housed and cared for and infrastructure is delivered’.

The post wrestles with key issues that the new government must address, including business rates devolution, wider local government devolution and social care.

Councils currently have very little certainty as to how they will be funded beyond 2020, with progress on local government finance having been ‘complicated and slow’. Lucas argues that the new government must soon decide if they are committed to the Finance Bill in its current form, but also encourages a discussion that ‘broadens the local tax base to create a sustainable way of funding services in the long-term’.

The recent election of six new metro-mayors in May put devolution back on the media and political agenda, but ‘the rural two-tier devolution model appears to have foundered’, according to Lucas. The government should ‘provide clear leadership on devolution and on reorganisation’, starting with strong decisions on the next Chancellor and Secretary of State for Communities.

The Conservative Party manifesto originally committed to including the value of the family home in the means test for home care eligibility, with a guarantee that no individual’s assets would be depleted below £100,000. Prime Minister Theresa May has since announced a U-turn on the policy. According to the LGA, social care faces a £2.6 billion funding gap by 2020, and the LGiU Paying For It report illustrates how the social care ecosystem is crumbling because of a lack of investment.

Lucas argues that social care must take ‘immediate priority’, saying that it is ’time to put councils back on the agenda’.

Speaking about the General Election result, Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “After an election campaign overshadowed by two terrorist outrages the most important thing is that democracy has run its course and in safety.

“Questions around funding and social care grow more urgent month by month and have continued to do so over a prolonged period of local and national electioneering. These issues pertain directly to vital public services and we trust they will not be forgotten in the negotiations that unfold over the coming days or weeks.

“At times of national uncertainty we should never forget that local government provides continuity and stability. People will still be cared for, streets will still be swept, children will still be protected. Because whatever happens in national politics, local government carries on.”

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