In this new report published by APSE and written by the New Policy Institute we find that over the nine years from 2009/10 resources devoted to neighbourhood services across Britain fell 27 per cent representing a total of £8.9bn in 2017/18 prices. This is against the background of a real fall in total UK local government spending over the same period of 19 per cent demonstrating that neighbourhood services have taken a bigger share of austerity than other council services. Given the importance of these services to local communities and local businesses the report builds an argument for a sustained increase in local government spending on neighbourhood services, supported by an analysis of how increases might be distributed across the 70 or so individual services.
Neighbourhood services are critical to residents and businesses alike. Delivered by local councils, these frontline public services, such as parks and public realm, recycling, bin collections, roads and highways are vital to wellbeing of local areas and local people. But when it comes to public funding, they are at the back of the queue. This report therefore calls for a restoration of the link between local government spending and the growth rate of the economy to a minimum level of 6.2% of GDP. Whilst this would only provide an additional sum of some £3.2bn it would nevertheless provide a welcome step-up to begin to restore a minimum sustainable level for neighbourhood services and would on average represent a 12 per cent increase in neighbourhood services budgets.
The report, which combines quantitative and qualitative evidence, in particular finds that the impact of spending cuts has hit the poorest areas hardest. When compared on a per head basis, spending on neighbourhood services by the one third of authorities with the lowest spending in 2017/18 has fallen further since 2009/10 than spending by authorities with higher levels.