The Chancellor made announcements on a number of policies important to local government, but it was disappointing that the Budget offered nothing to ease the financial crisis facing local services.
The money local government has to spend on services is running out fast and Ashfield District Council, like many other councils, is trying to deliver high quality services whilst at the same time reduce its expenditure.
In order to help with the housing shortage within the District the Council requires greater freedom to borrow money to build new homes. The step by the Government to lift the borrowing cap for some councils will go some way to helping the situation. This is a positive step in recognising the important role councils play in providing housing, but there is still some way to go. Ashfield District Council can apply to have their borrowing cap lifted, but at this stage no decision has been made by the Council.
The budget also announced that councils would be able to increase the Council Tax premium on empty homes from 50% to 100%, which would generate much needed income. This is something that the Council will consider, but again at this stage no decision has been made.
The Government is also looking to improve the implementation of Universal Credit, which is due to roll out across Ashfield in November 2018. The measures announced in the Budget should allow the Council to ensure that fewer claimants get into financial difficulty at the start of their claim.
Cllr Cheryl Butler, Leader of Ashfield District Council says “In order to take the vital decisions we need to build homes, generate economic growth and strengthen our communities, Ashfield District Council requires a greater freedom from the Government as well as sufficient funding. The budget includes some steps that could help in alleviating future funding gaps, but based on the current assumptions of our future funding and costs we believe the Council is looking a £3.78m gap in our budget, so there is still a long way to go for us to bridge this gap. I believe this Government needs to look at the great work councils do and see how we could do so much more if they allocate additional money, and show their trust and faith in us”.