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

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

All change in local government

As the funding cuts start to bite, things are changing rapidly in local government. But this is only the start. My own local authority, for example, managed to find savings of £17.5m in 2011/12 and needs to identify another £30m by 2015. And if the trend continues, they estimate that they will have to cut expenditure by a further £39m by 2018. This will leave the Council with only half of the resources that it had in 2010/11. Continue reading