This week’s Autumn Statement from the Government has not provided any real light at the end of the tunnel for South Gloucestershire Council’s financial situation.
The Authority’s budget for next year, which is currently out for public consultation, does present a balanced set of accounts in the short term, but the latest set of Government announcements have done nothing significant at all to help reduce the pressure on council budgets or make council budgets sustainable in the coming few years.
That continued pressure will mean no respite for council services that are under extreme strain already, with the prospect, as costs continue to rise faster than funding, of further cutbacks of the support that local people rely upon.
South Gloucestershire Council Leader, Councillor Claire Young, said: “We were waiting and hoping that the Government would have taken this opportunity to help councils help local people facing an ongoing cost of living crisis, prices that are still rising at twice the target inflation rate, high interest rates on mortgages, stagnant wages for many and as we collectively need to tackle the climate emergency.
“Instead, we got no help to provide the social care people need. No help to support our underfunded schools. No help on wage and price inflation. No help to repair our roads and boost sustainable public transport options.
“Through our budget consultation we are having community conversations with local people so they can see the impact of this underfunding on what we are able to provide as a council and help us set our priorities for next year.
“Through our community conversations with residents, businesses, the voluntary and community sector, we are also talking about a shared vision for the future of South Gloucestershire that we can set out in a new Council Plan next year.
“The Government has taken some, limited positive steps. In acting to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates, there is some help to afford rising rents. We will also now be able to set our planning fees at a level to cover our costs on processing major developments.
“Overall, however, there was next to nothing in this Autumn Statement that suggests the Government understands the major issues we face in South Gloucestershire or that they are prepared to help us do anything to help. It is bitterly disappointing.”
For more information about the councils 2023/24 Budget consultation process and details of the online and in-person opportunities to take part, please visit the website: www.southglos.gov.uk/south-glos-budget-2024