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Press Release – DISTRICT COUNCILS RESPOND TO BUDGET 2017
Responding to the Budget 2017, Cllr Neil Clarke, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:
“Whilst district councils support the additional funding for social care announced by the Chancellor today, it is important that this is genuinely new money and has not come at the expense of other parts of local government.
“The Government’s green paper into a sustainable and long-term funding solution for social care is also welcome but we are clear that its focus must include the vital role district councils can play in prevention to reduce demand, which will be crucial going forward.
“District councils remain hardest hit by government funding cuts, facing a 5.2 per cent cut to core spending power this year compared to average 1.1 per cent reductions across the whole of local government. This will force district councils to make significant cuts to local services to plug funding gaps.
“District councils and the communities we serve also now need the Government to reverse unfair and counterproductive cuts to the New Homes Bonus which risk damaging local economic growth, the ongoing funding of public services and undermining efforts to boost housebuilding. We also still desperately need greater fiscal freedoms to enable us to fulfil our crucial role in boosting housebuilding and delivering economic growth and were disappointed that the Chancellor made no reference to lifting the housing borrowing cap or greater freedoms in relation to the use of Right to Buy receipts.
“The DCN welcome the transitional relief announced today in relation to business rates revaluation, particularly those for small businesses, with local government being reimbursed in full for these changes. The £300 million discretionary relief fund announced today will allow district councils to use their knowledge of their local and rural economies to effectively target business rates relief in their localities, although this funding may need to be increased further to reflect local business needs.
“Wider reform of the business rates system must ensure district councils are incentivised for generating economic growth and must also enable real and lasting self-sufficiency for local government.
“Whilst the DCN is supportive of today’s changes, these will have an impact on district councils that have already billed local businesses and who may need to rebill. In future, changes to business rates revaluation must be confirmed earlier to ensure greater financial certainty in the future and we would therefore call on the Chancellor to commit to announcing the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement alongside the Autumn Budget.”