Council remains ‘poorly funded’ by Government
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 January 2013
NORTH Somerset Council is facing an uphill battle to balance the books because it is ‘poorly funded’ by the Government, authority bosses say.
While the council receives £838 per house in Government funding, the national average is £1,207 and if the council was funded at the national average it would have an extra £34million to spend on vital services next year.
Council chiefs say North Somerset remains under-funded, especially in comparison with other authorities in west London.
Although council tax has remained low in the district, the Government has not raised the level of funding to compensate.
And at a time when it is being forced to make cuts the council says its spending per head of the population is currently £702, while other authorities across the country have greater spending freedom.
In inner London the figure is £1,057 per person.
While the Government grant per head stands at just over £718 for inner London councils and £362 for other unitary authorities, North Somerset’s stands at a mere £257 per resident.
Bosses at North Somerset say they are now faced with raising council tax by 1.5-2 per cent in next year’s budget out of necessity rather than choice.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles recently said councils have a ‘moral duty’ not to raise council tax, but North Somerset’s executive member for finance Tony Lake said: “I feel that ministers have a moral obligation to look at the way in which Government grants are agreed.
“The case is there - we are poorly funded. We have made savings, we have reduced costs and we have always done it on the basis that we will do what we can by delivering services in different ways to keep them running.
“If we don’t get a change in the way we are funded we might be in a situation where we have to stop delivering services which the public cherish at the moment.””
The council’s financial challenge has not been helped by the fact that the final Government settlement has still not been agreed by Westminster, even though the authority must set its budget on February 26.
Council chiefs, including leader Nigel Ashton, have lobbied Conservative party colleagues in senior Government positions for several years to get a better deal for North Somerset, and will continue to do so.
The leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, Mike Bell, will also now lobby LibDem ministers in the Coalition Government.
Going on current predictions of the Government grant, the authority still has to find extra cuts worth an estimated £266,000 for the next financial year having worked that figure down from £9.5million.
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