An introduction to local government

Local government lies at the heart of the public services. Our councils play a vital role in keeping the wheels of society turning, yet they remain a mystery to many outside the sector. And to some in it.

So I’m writing an introductory guide to local government in England, which will explain what local government is, what it does and how it’s funded. It will explore what makes our councils tick. And it will, hopefully, give a flavour of the complex challenges that they face.

Because I’m writing the guide around my other work, I’m publishing each chapter as it’s ready. Otherwise, we might be waiting for some time. You can read what I’ve written so far, and learn about my plans for the rest of the guide, on my local government insight page.

A tough year ahead for local government finance

It’s going to be another tough year for local government finances, with virtually all local authorities planning to increase council tax, one in ten councils warning that they may not be able to meet their statutory obligations and confidence in the sustainability of local government finance remaining low. Continue reading

The great funding challenge

The Government is very good at telling us how much funding it is allocating to different services. But it is less good at focusing on how well these services are doing. The Performance Tracker, published by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) bridges this gap. And its findings are far from reassuring. Continue reading

Where next for local government funding?

With each week that passes, it seems that another local authority joins the list of those whose finances have reached crisis point. First it was Northamptonshire County Council that hit the headlines, but top-tier councils in Sussex, Lancashire, Suffolk, Surrey, Torbay and Oxfordshire also seem to be feeling the heat. And Somerset County Council, down the road from me, has just voted through £28 million of cuts over the next two years, leading opposition councillors to describe the council as on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’. Continue reading