London local authority spending has seen steepest falls in England

London local authority spending has seen steepest falls in England

The capital’s boroughs and its regional government tier have reduced spending on public services far more sharply in the last ten years than counterparts in the rest of England, according figures compiled by the Greater London Authority.

Drawing on work by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the latest GLA Economics bulletin calculates that a combination of reductions in central government funding for transport, particularly deep cuts in funding for councils in London, and those councils raising Council Tax by less than counterparts elsewhere has produced an overall 30 per cent reduction in spending in London since 2009/10 compared with 20 per cent in rest of England.

The capital’s 33 local authorities and the Greater London Authority spent roughly £26 billion delivering public services in 2018/19. Of this, £7.6 billion went on education, £3.4 billion on adult social care, a further £3.4 billion on policing, £2.6 billion on transport and £1.9 billion on children’s services.

GLA Economics show that London government has striven to protect its provision of social care and housing services, though even these have seen reductions of 11 and 14 per cent respectively since the advent of “austerity” under Conservative-led national governments.

The bulletin reports government figures showing that spending on environment services, fire and rescue and policing has fallen between 25 and 30 per cent in each case, and by 46, 49 and 50 per cent respectively on highways and transport, culture and planning.

Within social care, “relative protection” has been maintained for spending on legally required services for disabled and looked-after children and those in need of protection services, but “sizeable spending reductions” in children’s services overall have taken place, with falls of 70 per cent on services for the young, 65 per cent on Sure Start centres and 48 per cent on youth justice.

London local authority contributions to adult social care fell by 22 per cent per person aged 65 or older between 2010/11 and 2018/19 and that on working-age adults by 19 per cent.

Most of London government’s spending on housing services is to assist homeless people, including assessing the eligibility for help of people seeking it from them, finding somewhere to live for those who do. Spending in this area actually rose by 38 per cent between 2009/10 and 2018/19 and that on “homelessness prevention, support and administration” by 30 per cent, but spending on other housing services fell by 45 per cent during the same period.

GLA Economics concludes that “local authorities in London have had to find greater savings in services spending than in elsewhere in England at a time of fiscal tightening,” with attempts to sustain statutory provision for children’s social care and the homeless resulting in cuts to the “more universal non-statutory services” they provide.

The bulletin notes that “the scale of spending reductions has varied considerably between London boroughs” and that “changes to the personal tax and welfare system are also negatively affecting many households in London, particularly poorer households”, which have increased the pressure on homelessness and other services. The figures reported in the bulletin allow for inflation and are based on head of population.

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