The current Chancellor of the Exchequer , Jeremy Hunt has warned “eye-watering” decisions lie ahead. The Treasury confirmed the chancellor will announce “further changes to fiscal policy” in the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan.

The one certainty is that local government finance will be hit. The Institute of Government and the CIPFA have published their latest ‘Performance Tracker’ report looking at the state of public finances. The report says:

“Many adult social care and neighbourhood services shrinking in scope or reducing levels of support. Meanwhile, schools have not been provided with sufficient resources to enable pupils to catch up on learning lost during the pandemic. All this would have been more manageable had services been in good shape on the eve of the crisis.”

IfG programme director Nick Davies is quoted as saying: “Public services are in a fragile state with little prospect of improvement before the next election. These are not isolated problems in specific services, but interconnected structural failures. The pandemic exacerbated these problems but they are not new. This has been a lost decade for public services, with performance worse now than it was in 2010.”

Back in 2015, Cllr Alan Hall chaired a group that examined the affects of austerity since 2010. This review sought to map public spending across the borough of Lewisham to enable the Council to understand how resources are being deployed by other organisations spending public money in the borough. Unsurprisingly, it revealed that most areas of public spending in Lewisham have contracted and that recent annual
reductions in funding are forecast to continue in future years.

The recommendation that it is crucial that all organisations spending public money in Lewisham work together, understand the services that others provide, and understand the impact that other organisations’ spending reductions will have on all services remains key to ensuring that public services can still deliver today.

Lewisham Council have published cuts proposals for next year’s budget round. These new proposals total £13.796m of which £10.826m are towards a budget gap in 2023/24.

As the public finance narrative is well described by the CIPFA and IfG it will be essential that Lewisham Council’s spending plans are carefully and diligently scrutinised to ensure that high quality public services are maintained whilst paying the workforce fairly and properly during the cost of living crisis.


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