Many council services will disappear by 2020, report warns

LGA predicts £16.5bn shortfall in council funding by 2020, leading to loss of services such as libraries and leisure centres.

Public libraries and leisure centres may disappear by the end of the decade unless councils receive an immediate injection of money, a 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 £16.5bn 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 £24.5bn in 2010/11 to £8.4bn in 2019/20.

The gap between the money available for providing services and the predicted cost of maintaining them at current levels starts at £1.4bn in 2012/13 and widens every year to reach £16.5bn 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.

The LGA chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, said: “By the end of the decade councils may be forced to wind down some of the most popular services they provide unless urgent action is taken to address the crisis in adult social care funding.

“Efficiency savings won’t go close to solving this problem. We need an immediate injection of money into the adult care system to meet rising demand in the short term, alongside a major revision of the way it is paid for and delivered in future.”

He added: “The lines on the charts in this report are the converging train tracks that will carry the most immediate and popular public services into history unless the passengers – government, councils and the voters – draw a new map for organising and funding local public service, and draw it now.”

Local government minister Bob Neill said: “Local government accounts for a quarter of all public spending and needs to do its bit to help cut the deficit inherited from the last administration.

“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 £10bn boost to the wider economy, helping support local jobs and local firms, while still protecting frontline services and vulnerable communities.

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