All Party Parliament Group for District Councils Report: Delivering the District Difference
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for District Councils has released a new report “Delivering the District Difference” which you can download using this link.
As part of their recommendations in the report, the group has called on the government to empower districts with “suitable local flexibilities and incentives” to stimulate growth in the forthcoming spending review. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for District Council has also urged the Government to take immediate action to prevent over 70% of district authorities falling into a position of negative Revenue Support Grant in 2019/20.
Mark Pawsey MP, Chair of the APPG for District Councils, said:
“Districts are home to 22m people and they are the level of local government that is closest to residents. There is nothing more important to enable district authorities to deliver for their residents and businesses than ensuring they have suitable and sustainable levels of funding.
“To achieve this, we call on the government to be bold and take a new approach. We want to see districts empowered with freedoms and flexibilities to stimulate the local economy. We also urge the Government to commit to retain current incentives that are successfully supporting districts to deliver the homes the country needs.”
The MPs also state that they received overwhelming evidence about the role districts can also play in supporting the government to meet its housebuilding targets, and in creating a sustainable future for social care and health services.
The report highlights the importance of incentives, such as the New Homes Bonus, in building more homes with a majority of districts stating that the bonus continues to provide an appropriate incentive for communities to support local housing development in its current form, although many councils highlighted the negative impact of recent reductions to the bonus. MPs recommend the government reverses its introduction of a 0.4% baseline threshold, which for some authorities has led to loses in revenue of up to £1m.
The APPG also received evidence from districts of their enthusiasm for the potential of a ‘prevention precept’ that would see districts to add a 2% precept on council tax, similar the social care precept available to authorities that deliver social care. According to the District Councils’ Network, this could raise £26m a year and deliver savings many times that amount as every £1 spent on preventative measures such as home adaptions can lead to savings of up to £70.
The District Councils’ Network has welcomed the report. John Fuller, Chair of the District Councils’ Network, said:
“This Parliamentary report demonstrates that district councils have been hardest hit by reductions in spending power. But districts are best placed to grow the national economy one local economy at a time as local planning and housing authorities.
“Districts are an integral part of the Local Care System – our role in ensuring decent housing, homelessness and debt management reduces demand for social care and solves problems one family at a time and puts the Health Service on a more long term sustainable footing.
“By reversing the decline in district spending power and rewarding our innovative approach to health prevention, the Government has the opportunity to ensure districts drive local economic growth and reduce the burden on adult social care into the next decade and beyond.”