Responding to the 2020 Budget, APSE has urged the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to treat this as the beginning not the end of the debate about the future of public finances. Welcoming the new levels of investment, APSE also warned that the planned Comprehensive Spending review - announced alongside a fundamental review of business rates and the review of the public works loans board - meant future fair funding of councils was far from a settled issue.
APSE also called for greater revenue support for local authorities facing unprecedented challenges in areas like climate change, housing and waste and resources. Welcoming much within the budget Paul O’Brien said, “The Chancellor has ‘gone large’ on the big-ticket items that grab the headlines but we know that there is much more detailed work to be done if there is a genuine commitment to levelling up the UK. After over a decade of austerity, to really see a difference on the ground we now need to see a fundamental recalibration of the funding of local areas and support for local economies; this must go deeper and further than short term patterns of business rate relief.
O’Brien added, “Whilst investment is welcome there is still a gaping revenue chasm for frontline services. To give a micro example of this: if we plant thousands of trees it will be councils that must properly maintain them. Revenue is the ying to the yang of capital - without both the investment levels will not produce the results we all want to see”.
APSE also expressed disappointment at the relative low levels for green investment which came in at around £1bn contrasting with £27bn for roads. Whilst roads investment may ultimately support the green economy through better integration of new technologies and preparing roads for new vehicle types and new infrastructure needs, with around 64% of local councils declaring a climate emergency APSE has called for greater support to help councils achieve their aims for net-zero carbon in the coming decades. APSE has consistently called for funding to support not just new transport infrastructure but new greener technologies to support waste and resources, including collections and disposals, as well as support for councils to retrofit homes and ensure new homes and all civic buildings are as energy efficient as possible.