“Public finances are undoubtedly under huge strain but investment in our local services will be vital for our national economic and social recovery."
Responding to the Budget, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
“Tackling the economic challenges ahead is a huge task. It is councils who know their local areas best and who have delivered for residents and businesses during the pandemic. They must now be trusted to lead efforts to rebuild and level up our economy, get people back into work and create new hope for communities. It is good that councils have been placed at the heart of the delivery of new funds such as the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund. We look forward to working with government on the detail but are concerned by the prospect of competitive bidding processes at a time when councils want to be fully focused on protecting communities and businesses from the impact of the pandemic.
“Emergency government grants distributed by councils have been a vital lifeline to struggling businesses worried about the future during the pandemic. It is good that further funding will be provided to support businesses and councils remain ready to use their local knowledge and expertise to distribute this new money quickly.
“The COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the number of long-term unemployed people across England reaching 1.2 million. The furlough scheme has been vital in securing jobs that may have otherwise been lost so it is important that it has been extended. It will be crucial to ensure people seeking to re-enter the labour market get the local support, advice and training they need to face the future. Councils stand ready to work in partnership with the Government at the earliest stage to shape new and re-design existing Plan for Jobs initiatives, so they are effective and connected on the ground to ensure no community is left behind.
“Many households could be economically vulnerable for some time so we are pleased that the Chancellor has announced an extension to the universal credit uplift. We remain clear that this must be kept in place for as long as it is needed so that households are not pushed into financial hardship as a result of vital support being withdrawn. The mainstream benefits system will need to provide the first line of support to those in need with councils given adequate local welfare funding to provide additional help.
“Councils continue to lead local efforts to protect lives and livelihoods from COVID-19 but still face substantial cost pressures and income losses. The Government has provided a significant financial package of support so far to help but the ongoing financial impact and unpredictability of the pandemic means this support must be kept under review. We continue to call on government to meet - in full - all cost pressures and income losses incurred by councils as a result of the pandemic.
“Further action is also desperately needed to immediately shore up social care services, and to secure the long-term future of care and support. The Government must urgently bring forward its proposals, including a clear timetable for reform, so that we can finally put social care on a sustainable footing and enable people to live the lives they want to lead.
“Public finances are undoubtedly under huge strain but investment in our local services will be vital for our national economic and social recovery. Alongside sustainable long-term investment for councils in the forthcoming Spending Review, bringing power and resources closer to people is the key to improving lives, tackling deep set inequalities and building inclusive growth across the country.”