Local government austerity has cost every person living in Manchester the real-terms equivalent of £324 as councils’ spending has fallen by 17%, according to Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook 2019 report – the Centre’s annual health check on UK city economies.
The report found that the cities least equipped to absorb the loss of central government grant have been hardest hit due to their weaker local economies. They are less able to raise money locally, for example through council tax increases. This applies most strongly outside the South of England.
Manchester’s councils have been able to make do with less by becoming more efficient, but reductions in funding and the increase in demand for social care have meant cuts to other services.
For example spending on public conveniences such as toilets in the city has fallen by 92% over the past decade, while spending on library services has dropped by 39% and street cleansing by 30%.
The growing demand for social care has added to the squeeze on Manchester’s councils’ finances. Across Britain, more and more cities are spending greater proportions of their budgets on social care, this is adding to the squeeze on their finances. If this pattern continues, the only role for many councils will be to provide social care.
Cities Outlook 2019 urges the Government to use the Spending Review to ensure that its promise to end austerity fully applies to local government, and in particular to cities.
Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities Chief Executive, said:
“Cities drive the national economy and, while austerity has improved local government efficiency, its sheer scale has placed public services in Manchester under huge pressure. Cities Outlook 2019 shows that the cities most affected are economically weaker and have been less able to absorb the loss of central government funding.
“Manchester’s councils have managed as best they can but the continued singling-out of local government for cuts cannot continue. There is a very real risk that many of our largest councils will in the near future become little more than social care providers. Fairer funding must mean more funding for Manchester.
“If, as the Prime Minister has said, austerity is coming to an end then the Spending Review must address the financial challenges facing Manchester’s councils. But this does not just mean more money. Giving local authorities more power to decide how they raise and spend funds, providing more flexible multi-year budgets and reforming the way social care is paid for also need to be urgently introduced.”