SIGOMA vice-chair gives evidence at LUHC committee hearing
Posted on November 09, 2023
The inquiry covered a range of issues, an excerpt from the session follows.
On the rise of s114s
Cllr Chapman: People have to recognise that local government has probably taken the greatest level of cuts of any of the public sector over the years—more than health, and probably even more than prisons. We are coming under inexorable pressures of 12 to 13 years of reductions in Government grant with, at the same time, an increase in the level of pressures that local government is having to face in the form of adult social care costs, homelessness costs and child protection costs, which are enormous. It is being squeezed, and that model can only go on for so long. You only have so many reserves that you can use to offset some of these pressures without the income. The other thing that has been happening is that, because of these pressures, there has been less and less emphasis on preventive measures, which in the longer run could probably reduce some of the costs. We are reaching a tipping point.
On 'levelling up'
Councillor Chapman: If you look at what levelling up is about, the best way you can level up is to get money circulating in the local economy. We have calculated that local government spends something like 70% of its expenditures locally. By depriving local government—and depriving it of the economic mechanisms as well—you are undermining the whole purpose of the Department for Levelling Up. What is going on just does not make sense.
On Children's Services
Councillor Chapman: The other thing that absolutely needs fixing is the market for children. Councillor Fuller: Children’s services, not children. Councillor Chapman: No, I deliberately said the market for children, because children are very often being processed rather than looked after. There are cases in which a child will cost between half a million and £1 million a year. That is utterly unsustainable, and it is utterly inexcusable. Ian Byrne MP: Is that model responsible for the rise that John was talking about, or partly responsible for the 23% increase? Councillor Chapman: There will be a number of children in any authority—10 or 15 in larger authorities—who are costing between £250,000 and £750,000 each per annum. Think of the impact that that has on every other service. You have heard of the graph of doom, presumably? I used to think that it was something in the future, but the graph of doom is now happening. We are talking about up to 75% of your expenditure going on children or adult social care, which leaves nothing for the sort of things that John was talking about. It also undermines democracy, because everybody else is thinking, “What are we getting out of the council? We are paying far more in additional council tax every year—5%, beyond inflation until recently—and getting less.” The model is not sustainable. You then end up with a large number of local authorities on the edge of section 114s.
Read coverage of Cllr Chapman's comments about:
- Yorkshire Post - 'No solution to 'broken' children's services that are crippling council budgets, MPs warned'
- The Local Government Chronicle - '‘Broken’ and ‘dodgy’ markets to blame for financial pressure'
Levelling Up at DLUHC
- The Municipal Journal - 'DLUHC blasted over levelling up failure'
- The Local Government Chronicle - 'System for struggling councils is not fit for purpose'