Sobering reading from Rob Whiteman about where we currently are with local government funding.
Things were not great even before Covid-19 and the effects of the pandemic, which have exacerbated the situation, are going to continue for some time.
In practice, this will no doubt involve a change to existing delivery to accommodate both the on the ground effects of the pandemic and the financial reality that local authorities find themselves in (see my article here).
There are several pots of money out there (provided authorities have the resources to bid) that will secure some great outcomes for local communities. But it is nowhere near the sector-wide change to local government funding that is needed to secure sustainability for the long term.
To get to that future sustainable funding position, I completely agree with Rob Whiteman (see extract below) that (in all things!) [re]form follows function:
"Key to this will be a rigorous and potentially uncomfortable conversation around the purpose of local government. The form of any funding reform should follow function, and thus any meaningful movement in this area will only be possible if this fundamental question is addressed. The hole in local government finances, and the scale of demand particularly following on from the pandemic, is such that tinkering around the edges simply will not cut the mustard."
Local authorities will be feeling the aftershocks of the last 12 months for many years to come, particularly in their finances. Building long-term financial resilience into the local state will be key if we are to face the next crisis that comes over the hill, whatever it may be.