The Comprehensive Spending Review eventually arrived today after months of speculation and the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, didn’t spring many surprises on local government. As expected the spending settlement was the tightest in years with a 1% real term rise set out over the next three years. This coupled with a built in efficiency target of 3% cashable savings, which in reality means £4.9b of savings required over the next three years suggests that times are about to get really tough for local authorities.
There’s a touch of irony in all of this when you consider that local government has been the star performer amongst public services in recent years, the improvement shown in measurement by the comprehensive performance assessment and the early achievement of Gershon targets. Despite this the Health Service got a 4% real term increase, against local governments 1%.
I hope that frontline services such as highways and environment don’t end up feeling the pain of this settlement. However I fear that with the increasing costs of waste disposal and social care then cuts are inevitable in some areas. It really could be a case of mission impossible Darling.