‘A missed opportunity’: DCN responds to finance settlement
District council budgets will remain under considerable pressure after the Government confirmed their funding for 2023-24 in the Local Government Finance Settlement.
Today’s final settlement confirms councils will receive an increase of at least 3% in their spending power – however the extra money falls far short of compensating councils for high inflation, when budgets were already stretched.
The real-terms spending power cut comes as a range of services including housing support and homelessness prevention experience rapidly rising demand for services. Income from fees and charges remains below pre-pandemic levels.
Commenting on the publication of the Local Government Finance Settlement, Cllr Peter Fleming, DCN Finance Spokesperson, said:
“The finance settlement confirms previously announced new support for district councils, which the District Councils’ Network has welcomed. We also welcome the additional uplift to the Rural Services Delivery Grant and Services Grant announced today. However, the total increase in support lags behind inflation. It does not give districts sufficient freedom to support themselves and respond to their communities’ needs. We are disappointed that the Government hasn’t listened to our request for modest extra flexibility on council tax
“Districts face too many restrictions on their ability to raise income and recover the costs of services, such as planning and licensing. A simple first step would be to quickly implement the increases to planning application fees first proposed nine months ago. This would make a real difference to district councils and would not cost the Exchequer a penny.
“District councils will have to contend with significant uncertainty over the next two years. We call on the government to work with us to resolve the future of the New Homes Bonus quickly and provide long-term certainty about other funding streams. Without that it is impossible to plan ahead.
“District councils drive local growth, hold important keys to improving health and reducing the pressure on the NHS, and have unparalleled ability to help local residents most in need. We need additional freedom and certainty to ensure this unique value is not put at risk.”