Looking back over the past year it is good to be able to highlight some tangible successes that have strengthened the boroughs’ ability to serve their residents: from heading off a threatened £37 million funding cut to local transport projects; securing an uprating of half of London’s Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates by 4 per cent rather than 1 per cent (the only exception allowed in England), to the acceptance by the government of the need for three year schools capital allocations and, once more, the government recognising our arguments for increased funding for school places in London.
By the end of the coming financial year, however, core funding for local government will have reduced by £10 billion, or 34 per cent since 2010/11. The reality is that austerity will be with us for a long time yet.
The passage of the new Care Act saw London Councils dedicated to establishing credible financial arguments to ensure that the boroughs are fairly funded for their adult care services – which make up almost one third of a council’s budget. These arguments are beginning to be heard within central government and the next year will be spent pressing them home.
The past year has also seen a momentum building in favour of devolution of powers and resources to local level. London Councils has been at the forefront, working with the Mayor of London and England’s Core Cities to ensure that the voice of the boroughs is heard clearly in these debates around the transformation of public services and devolution in England.
London’s population is set to exceed 9 million by 2020, so London local government faces the considerable additional challenge of managing the reduction in resources while meeting expectations and demands from a rapidly growing population.
Devolving decision-making and commissioning powers to enable councils to integrate services such as employment support at local level is essential if boroughs are to be able to make the required saving and improve outcomes for residents and communities.
These arguments formed an important part of our work on the London Enterprise Panel’s Growth Deal for London, on which London Councils’ officers worked with officers from boroughs and from the GLA to deliver and ensure that the contribution of the boroughs as key partners in the government of London was recognised and built upon.
Whatever the outcome of the debates in the run up to the General Election of May 2015 London Councils is dedicated to ensuring the best possible future for democratically-led local governance in London.
This review also covers how London Councils has been reviewing and improving the direct services it delivers to Londoners on behalf of boroughs to ensure better services for customers and better value for money for boroughs.
Of course this annual review covers the period just before the London local elections which took place on 22 May 2014. It is appropriate to offer congratulations to those members who were re elected and to welcome the hundreds of new members elected to serve their local communities for the coming years.
We also offer our thanks and good wishes to all those who have served London so conscientiously in elected office and who ceased to serve as councillors this May.
We look forward to working with you all and in the meantime I commend this annual review to you as a measure of what can be achieved when boroughs work together.
Mayor Jules Pipe
Chair, London Councils