A Saturday shift in the impressive surroundings of the Guildhall in London for the London council’s annual conference today.
Jules Pipe opened up by talking about the need for local government in London to also receive the benefit of further devolution from the debate that’s taking place at present. He pointed out that the funding gap for local government in London will have reached £3.4B by 2020.
Steve Richards the chief political correspondent with the Independent spoke about the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of next May’s general election and the anti-politics frenzy that is prevailing at present. He was one of several speakers who commented on how the rest of the UK doesn’t like London, my own view is that this is misunderstood and that it is Westminster that is disliked rather than London.
Darra Singh spoke about the independent commission he has been involved in on local government finance. In summary, its interim findings are that if councils are allowed to set their own council tax levels along with devolution of business rates to them then self-financing would become an option for two thirds of councils in England. Surpluses that those authorities generated could then be used for local equalisation arrangements within regions or areas for those authorities in deficit. The commission’s final report is due in February.
As well as devolution and local government finance, housing was also a dominant issue amongst discussions at what turned out to be a really useful and lively conference.