2014: The year of further cuts
2014 will be the year where local government ramps up its response to the ongoing financial challenge and become increasingly confident and vocal in its dealings with central government.
Despite the pressure and scale of changes still to come, I sense a quiet optimism and steely determination overtaking the desperation. Many councils will realise that they’ve already achieved and survived what seemed impossible, perhaps even managing to improve their offering. Yet councils are now starkly aware of their current and future limitations, with a burning platform making those who are left prepared to think the unthinkable.
Expect an ongoing reduction in staff numbers – with ever greater need for commercial expertise within the remaining core – and ongoing withdrawal from unsustainable non-statutory services. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming election will impact on which services are saved, and should at least raise public awareness of local issues – as we’d expect the cuts to services become increasingly visible to citizens (who mostly seem not to have noticed the scale of reforms within our sector).
While some councils are well placed to continue to proactively manage the loss of funding, we foresee more crisis management by councils to support those vulnerable people who have been most affected by recent reforms (e.g. welfare, cuts to supporting people budgets, loss of legal aid etc) It’s going to be another interesting year!