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Central government funding for local councils falls short

Central government funding for local councils falls short

27 January 2023
[ Zoom ]
Council offices at Shute End

Wokingham Borough continues to receive the least funding from central government per resident of any unitary authority in the country – about £30million below the national average.


This follows the announcement of this year’s Local Government Finance Settlement, which sets how much funding an area will get from the government. Wokingham borough receives less than other areas because it is perceived by central government as having low-deprivation.


Leader of the council, Cllr Clive Jones said, “This happens to us every year and it is not right. I understand that some areas do have more needs but all councils face spiralling basic costs because of inflation.


“We cannot raise council tax to a level that will meet the needs of the people who live here, nor would we want to, but this leaves us in the difficult position where we have to cover the gap in our funding, by postponing projects and increasing charges for our services – just imagine what an extra £30million a year could do to benefit our communities.”

Funding for social care

On average, more than 60 per cent of the money the council receive every year funds social care for people of all ages across the borough.


This involves a wide range of support across many departments like the safeguarding team, who keep people safe, or occupational therapists who help people stay at home for longer if this is possible and they want to do so.


As well as social care support, the council provide support services for children with special needs covering a vast array of requirements which can include something as simple as helping to transport them to school if needed. There are significant budget pressures within our children’s services but the council are ready to make the tough decisions to ensure that every child in our borough feels supported and has the ability to flourish.

Financial pressures

Cllr Jones has written to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to stress the further financial pressures this decision will have on council services for Wokingham borough.


Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove announced last December a £60 billion package for councils in England for the next financial year, a 9% increase on last year’s settlement.


However, in his letter Cllr Jones states that the disproportionate allocation of available funding leaves Wokingham borough with the lowest funding per person of any Unitary Authority.


The council, if funded at the average, would receive an additional £30million of Government support, approximately one quarter of its total net budget. However, the disproportionate allocation of funds from central government to local councils across the country means Wokingham borough council tax payers will continue to make a higher percentage contribution than any other unitary authority to fund services.

New local government funding model needed

Cllr Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, executive member for finance, has called for a new local government funding model based on the genuine costs of running a Local Authority and that future settlements cover a longer period of time to allow for more effective long term financial planning.


Cllr Shepherd-Dubey said, “This year, Wokingham’s overall core spending power only increased 6.9%, well below inflation as demand increases meaning a further pressure on critical local services. The Local Government Finance Settlement must keep in line with overall levels of inflation and general cost increases. 


“Local Authorities also need to be given surety of the longer-term grant and funding arrangements.  Without that understanding it is impossible to effectively plan its future financial strategy, service impacts and to invest key resources appropriately. 


“Forward planning is key and shorter-term approaches are often more expensive and therefore place additional financial pressures and impact ultimately value for money”.


For further information on the council's financial situation can be found the engagement website.

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