This report examines the impact of the government’s austerity programme on local government, with evidence from national data and local case studies.
- The most deprived areas have borne the brunt of the cuts. On one key measure, the most deprived English authorities have had a level of cut nearly six times higher than the cut experienced in the least deprived areas.
- Councils have employed imaginative strategies to balance budgets, minimising impacts on front-line services to date. But the need for cuts to continue to at least 2018/19 means there will inevitably be greater ‘retrenchment’ in the coming years.
- Austerity has catalysed council efforts to find more efficient ways of working and encouraged new forms of partnership, particularly with health services. But it has also fragmented services and created barriers to collaboration due to the scarcity of resources and the strain on basic services.
- Cuts are clearly beginning to bite, particularly in relation to services for children and young people and neighbourhood upkeep. Even small cuts can have impacts on poorer communities, limiting lives and diminishing support for all but the most urgent and extreme cases.
- While local devolution and greater reliance on civic responsibility are welcomed by local government, without coherent central support and investment, such efforts can only ever be ad hoc, and risk leaving gaps in services through which the poorest and most disadvantaged in society will fall.