Leisure centres, libraries and children’s centres are set to bear the burnt of cutbacks in 2015/16 as councils grapple with rising demand for adult social care and further reductions in central government funding.
The Local Government Association’s Under Pressure report says that local authorities have reached the limit of what can be achieved through efficiency savings and will now have to consider higher fees and service reductions for discretionary services like parks and leisure centres.
The LGA asked 73 county, unitary and district councils about their strategies for the 2015/16 financial year and found that 60% believe they cannot meet the gap in their budget via efficiency savings alone.
It found that the cost of caring for an ageing population and the implications of social care reforms, together with less money from central government, were key reasons why councils were now strapped for cash.
The report said that the most popular strategies to coping with the 2015/16 shortfall were increasing charges for services and dipping into reserves.
“Faced with the biggest cuts in living memory, councils have restructured and shared services where it has been possible and have made the most efficient part of the public sector even more efficient,” said councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, vice-chairman of the LGA.
“However, efficiency savings cannot be remade and we are now reaching the end of the road. The next two years will be the toughest yet for those who use and rely upon popular local services councils provide.”
The LGA’s report noted that the increased integration of social care and health plus the Troubled Families programme would help reduce the cost burden on local authorities, but warned that these savings would not happen fast enough to prevent the need for services to be cut back in 2015/16.