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Record funding shortfalls have forced councils ‘on their knees’

New research found councils are facing a cash shortfall of more than £3.5bn within the next year with jobs and services hanging in the balance.

Data that has been complied by Unison, the trade union, from freedom of information requests has exposed 114 councils across the UK are facing shortfalls of more than £10m. The research, which was published this week, highlighted that 15 councils were likely to have debts of more than £40m.

person showing both hands with make a change note and coins

Although this news is tragic it isn’t shocking. Birmingham City Council have made national headlines over the past couple of weeks as they issued a section 114 notice and the government have had to bring in commissioners to run the local authority.

Experts have found Birmingham have been hit with a £164m shortfall, followed by Thurrock council with a gap of £157m, who have also recently declared themselves as bankrupt.

Following this, other authorities who have been found to have severe cash shortfalls are Hampshire county council with £82m, Sheffield with £72.7m and Bradford with £72m. To make matters worse, research warned the situation was likely to worsen as the cumulative funding gap is predicted to rise even further to more than £7bn in 2025/26.

To cope with these huge funding gaps the union claimed councils are already considering job cuts as well as scaling back community services such as waste collection, libraries, and leisure centres.

Christina McAnea, the general secretary of Unison, said many councils were ‘on the brink’.

She added: ‘Communities rely on their local authorities for all manner of essential services, such as waste collection, road repairs and parks and other open spaces.

‘But councils are on their knees. Ministers seem to care very little about public services and local government has been hit hard over very many years.

‘Essential services can’t run on this air. Staff levels have already been cut to the bone in desperate attempts to balance the books.

‘Yet more service cuts and job losses are sadly inevitable across the country unless the government intervenes with the lifeline of significant extra funding. Not just for those on the brink, but to councils everywhere.’

Image: Katt Yukawa

More on this topic:

Budget shortfalls forced £15bn of public assets to be sold by English councils

Is it a bird, is it a plane: commissioners set to run Birmingham City Council

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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