Spending on Londoners by their local authorities has fallen by nearly a fifth since the advent of austerity despite small recent increases, according to figures newly published by think tank Centre for London.
Residents of Inner London boroughs have been the hardest hit, with Westminster seeing a 32 per cent drop and Newham one of 30 per cent, followed by Tower Hamlets (29 per cent), Hackney (28 per cent) and Camden and Wandsworth (both 25 per cent).
The figures, compiled by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government from information provided by boroughs about their general grant transactions, take into account London’s population growth and show that the all the main services provided by the capital’s 32 borough councils have seen budget reductions, with the exception of those for children’s social care.
Planning and development, highways and transport, and cultural activity departments have faced the largest cuts, amid overall average falls from £879 for each person in 2010/11 after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government was elected to £729 in 2018/19. Centre for London says these reductions are of almost 35 per cent when inflation is taken into account.
The think tank says that expenditure across Greater London per head actually increased by two percent last year as additional funding for social services began to filter through along with boroughs taking advantage of being allowed to raise council tax for specific purposes. This meant the budgets of most boroughs increased slightly or stayed the same last financial year.
Silviya Barrett, Centre for London’s research manager, said that despite boroughs showing “great ingenuity” in adapting to the cuts they are now “running out of road”. She called for all of the UK’s “distinct localities” to be given “the power and resources to to set local tax levels and raise their own taxes” but noted that “the drive for devolution seems to be stuck”. The budget analysis forms part of the think tank’s latest London Intelligence statistical bulletin.
Peter John, who chairs London Councils, the body representing all the capital’s local authorities, said the analysis of the figures is “yet another stark warning about the huge financial pressure councils are under. Boroughs cannot deal with austerity for much longer. It is time for government to listen to our concerns.” Last year, John called for major reforms to enable local government to put its finances on a more stable basis. “We cannot simply carry on using successive budgets to apply sticking plaster”.
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