Nick Rushton says it is harder for councils to 'keep head above water' after meeting with Government minister

By Ashby Nub News Reporter

19th Sep 2023 | Local News

Ashby de la Zouch based Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton. Photo: Leicestershire County Council
Ashby de la Zouch based Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton. Photo: Leicestershire County Council

Leicestershire County Council chiefs - including Ashby-based leader Nick Rushton - have met local government minister, Lee Rowley MP, as part of a long-running campaign calling for fair funding.

The positive discussion follows constructive talks with the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in Westminster and saw leads set out a pragmatic, temporary fix which would see Government put in an extra £350m to level up 32 of the lowest funded councils.

Last week's meeting coincided with the publication of a county council budget update which shows a £9million overspend this year as the costs of children's and adult social care rocket.

Inflation, the National Living Wage and increasing pressures on vital services are driving up the council's costs and could push its budget shortfall over £100million by 2027.

Last Friday's cabinet meeting heard that intensive work is taking place focusing on managing future demand and close management of costs will continue to reduce the forecast overspend. 

Leader of Leicestershire County Council, Cllr Rushton, said: "I'd like to thank the minister for coming to see us in Leicestershire.

"Our latest financial forecast typifies the grim reality facing councils up and down the country.

"Let me be clear – we're not about to issue a section 114 notice (bankruptcy). We're super-efficient and pride ourselves on doing the best we can with the money we have, but spiralling costs are making it much harder to keep our head above water.

"With many other well run authorities also facing similar pressures, local government is reaching new territory.

"We have a credible solution which can be implemented quickly and the minister reassured us he would take our comments back to Government." 

Mr Rowley MP, local government minister, said: "I would like to thank Cllr Rushton, Cllr Bedford, Cllr Taylor, Cllr Breckon, and Cllr Ashman for their time and for meeting with me to discuss Leicestershire and their proposals for the Local Government Finance Settlement.

"In particular, I welcomed and am grateful for the very helpful conversation we had on the council's funding and the pressure that the council is currently seeing in some service areas.

"The government will bring forward its proposals for the Local Government Finance Settlement 2024-25 in the usual way later in the year and it is always very useful to get frontline feedback as to what is happening at the current time.

"I look forward to our continuing engagement in the months ahead."

Leicestershire is the lowest funded county council in the country and has long been calling for funding reform.

Cllr Lee Breckon, cabinet member for resources, added: "The minister was keen to hear our views. We know that national funding is stretched but our feedback is reaching the right people.

"After saving £250m since 2010, we're already a very lean organisation – and we can't be expected to carry on as we are without help. All we can do is continue to operate efficiently and target our resource at those who need it the most."

Watch Friday's cabinet meeting online HERE.

The council says it has saved £250million since 2010 and has a yearly budget of £512million.

It adds that if Leicestershire was funded at the average level for English councils, it would receive an extra £130million a year.


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