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Council leader: public services 'on the brink'

'future of local government is in doubt'

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The Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council has warned that the coming weeks will 'make or break' local public services as calls on the government for emergency funding have 'fallen on deaf ears'.

Councillor Stephen Holt has led a national campaign for urgent government intervention in a homelessness crisis that has seen soaring costs of temporary accommodation reach unsustainable levels.

Councillor Holt said: "It is unfathomable to me and many other councillors across the country that all our collective calls for emergency funding have fallen on deaf ears.

"We've all seen the government press releases about money for councils, yet they don't mention that none of it is for districts and boroughs, it's all for the county and unitary councils.

"And this is not a party-political issue, councils of every colour are in the same boat.  In October, 119 council leaders signed my letter to the chancellor asking for urgent help.

"In Eastbourne, we are spending 49p in every £1 of council tax collected on temporary accommodation, it doesn't get much clearer than that - our public services, the services that many residents rely on are on the brink without immediate government funding.

"In the coming weeks, the government will either make or break local public services in this town and it feels particularly cruel that at the 11th hour we still remain in the dark about their intentions."

Councillor Holt was speaking after a Cabinet meeting yesterday evening (7/2/24) that included a report on options for delivering a balanced budget.  The budget is subject to Full Council approval on the 28 February.

"My preferred option is that exceptional financial support from the government will allow us to set a balanced budget," he said.

"However, if this support doesn't materialise, we will have some incredibly tough and difficult decisions to take about the services we deliver, allied to the use of our reserves.

"What is clear, and this an observation shared by commentators and experts from all sides, is that the system of funding is broken, it is no longer fit for purpose and without fundamental changes the future of local government is in doubt."

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee has stated that local authorities nationally are facing a £4bn gap in finances due to systemic underfunding and increased costs.

Published on February 8, 2024.

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