The local state we’re in
Our survey of local government

“The pressure from 2015 onwards is going to be really tough. The current approach to local government funding cannot continue without causing the collapse of councils.”

Source: Council Leader

“Life is getting closer to the frontline and will soon impact on customers. Everything is up for review. There is no other option.”

Source: Council Chief Executive

“We are carrying out wholesale reviews of services challenging whether we should be delivering them at all, and if yes, do we have to be the provider?”

Source: Council Chief Executive

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Figure 12: Future concerns

Figure 12: Future concerns

Figure 18: Priorities for saving

Figure 18: Priorities for saving

Overview

Over the past few years, local government has demonstrated its ability to deliver ambitious and far reaching savings programmes. While council Chief Executives are still holding on to their confidence in meeting savings targets for the next year, our third annual local government survey shows that confidence in being able to protect services as well has fallen by 40% over the past year.

Beyond 2013/14, confidence in meeting savings targets falls with 57% of Chief Executives saying 2015/16 will be the toughest year to come.

Nine out of ten Chief Executives and Leaders now believe that some local authorities will get into serious financial crisis or fail to deliver the essential services that residents require within the next three years.

Almost all Chief Executives expect that the June 2013 Spending Review will mean further financial pressures for their councils. And almost all expect that welfare reform will lead to increased demand for council services.

Tough choices are ahead as the cracks begin to show and decisions get closer to the frontline. Councils need to act urgently to transform themselves into agile organisations and shape a role for themselves through a future of continued austerity.

Shifting priorities

Local authorities have largely made savings to date through focusing on 'how they work'. In future, the priority will need to move to 'what they do'. While there are still savings to be made when it comes to internal efficiency, the next few years are likely to see a shift in focus to managing demand, changing services levels and restructuring or closing frontline services. Our survey shows that so far Chief Executives are more likely to have embraced this agenda than Leaders.