The recession is leading to higher demands on education and children’s services in councils across England, a Local Government Association report published today has found.
However, a survey also out today by regulator the Audit Commission has found that councils are financially well placed to weather the recession.
The LGA surveyed 150 councils and found that 6% have experienced higher demands for children’s services and 30% foresee financial strain on children’s services, including more demands for free nursery places.
More requests for free school meals
Five per cent have experienced an increase in requests for free school meals, and nearly 36% anticipate further demands.
The survey also found that 4% of councils have already experienced a rise in demand for mental health services, predominantly in large city centres. Across all councils, 35% predicted an increase in demand for mental health services.
However, the Audit Commission found that “some authorities have had to take steps to keep costs under control, but most are confident that they can cope.”
Pressures from rising fuel bills
The report highlighted the pressure of increasing fuel bills, falling land and property prices, and increasing demand on services, for examples from rising levels of homelessness.
It also found that council reserves have been rising, currently averaging almost 13% of annual spend, and that two-thirds of councils who feel they need to take actions are confident that they can cope with the recession.
However, one in seven councils have had to make compulsory redundancies and one in six have cut services or plan to.
Chair of the Local Government Association Margaret Eaton said: “Councils are at the centre of helping people, businesses and other groups through the tough economic times ahead. When things go wrong, councils step in, both to help kick-start the economy when it hits rock bottom and to provide a safety net for people in need.”