Despite already achieving savings of £94 million, Bedford Borough Council must find further savings of £23.5 million by 2021. The council has protected frontline services as far as possible, and in doing so has shielded the majority of the public from the depth of the cuts it has experienced. The public think their council tax just pays for the council, but it also pays for the fire service, the police and town councils.
Local authorities face a range of new demands and cost pressures, but their statutory obligations have not been reduced. The revenue support grant from central Government to Bedford Borough Council has fallen by 90% since 2010, and demand for local council services, especially social care, is rocketing. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will increase pressure on the council, but the council will not be given sufficient money to administer the Act in the long term.
Bedford Borough Council received just over £30 million of revenue support grant from central Government in 2015, which will fall to £5.8 million by 2019-20—the grant is falling by £6.8 million this year alone. It is one thing to make efficiency savings and quite another not to give councils the money they need to cover statutory services. The public pay their income tax and council tax, and they rightly expect a decent service in return.
It is totally unfair that the only way councils can now plug the funding gap caused by central Government is to raise council tax contributions. The Government are passing their responsibility on to the taxpayer, but why should the public pay more for a reduced service? I only hope they know to point the finger for the decline they see around them at central not local government. The decimation of public services and the destruction of local government is damaging communities, and it is time the Government put an end to all the uncertainty surrounding public services funding and realise that the cuts they are making to local services are really hurting the people they are elected to protect and represent.