7 December 2007

The minister responsible for local government finance in England, John Healey, said in the Commons debate on the local government finance settlement for the three years 2008/09-2010/11 that “there is a certain regular choreography about the annual settlements” (Hansard 6 December 2007, column 986). And so there is. The dissatisfied, who always far outnumber the satisfied, complain and the debate in the Commons and outside has overflowed with complaints.

Complainants grumble about the general inadequacy of the funding or the unfairness of it for their area.

Next financial year central government is giving local government in England £70.4 billion.

I cannot say whether those billions are enough to provide satisfactory services overall but those who believe it should be more do not say where any extra funds should come from. More taxes? Efficiency – which often turns out to mean fewer paperclips or sacking people or ending or curtailing services?

As for parochial complaints, Healey tellingly said, “every council regards itself as uniquely disadvantaged by central government funding decisions, and every council has a special case unique to its circumstances” (Hansard 6 December 2007, column 990). Indeed, and Cornwall fits his satire well.

On cue, Cornwall county council, has expressed disappointment at the funding saying that although central government is giving Cornwall additional money, it is not enough for the county’s pressing needs. I put below a link to a similar response from London councils. Again, I can’t say whether Cornwall and the others have a case.

Overall, the increase in funding in the formula grant (which covers revenue support grant, redistributed business rates, and the police grant) next financial year against this year averages in the inner London boroughs 2 percent; shires in the the south east, that pampered ogre of Cornish nationalist mythology, between 3.7 and 2 percent; shire counties in England 5.7 percent; and Cornwall 8.5 percent. General (not local government) inflation is about 2 to 4 percent. Whatever one might say about 2008/09 local government funding, it would not be convincing to argue that Cornwall is uniquely disadvantaged by it.

The Commons debate is here.

Details of the financial settlement from the Department for communities are here.

And here is the response of the councils in London: “London is hardest hit by ‘devastating’ three-year funding announcement.”