Hendon Town Hall
Barnet Council is taking charge to tackle the local effects of the financial crisis affecting all local authorities across the country.
Councils, nationally, face a combined shortfall of over £3 billion. Nine in 10 London boroughs expect to overspend on budgets in 2023/24 by over £400m in total. Nearly a quarter of London boroughs forecast overspends of over £20m. Next year, savings of over £500m are required to balance the books as part of almost £2bn over the next four years. Outer London boroughs – as the lowest funded per capita in the country – face particularly tough choices going forward according to analysis from umbrella body London Councils.
Barnet Council is responding with strategies to close its own projected £45m budget gap for 2024-25 and protect vital frontline services. These include an even greater focus on prevention in adults’ social care, investing to save by delivering aspects of children’s services in-house, and investing in council housing to avoid high temporary accommodation costs – the three areas where all London councils are under pressure.
The measures to make estimated savings of £35m and reduce the forecasted gap to £10m were discussed at Overview & Scrutiny Committee (21 November).
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of Barnet Council, said:
“Along with all other councils, Barnet is facing challenging financial circumstances.
“We are investing to ensure we are prepared for future shocks like the Government’s mini-budget last year.
“That means a greater focus on prevention, so we spend less on cure, more council homes so we spend less on temporary accommodation, and delivery of more children’s services ourselves to provide better outcomes and make our money go further.
“Funding from central government to boroughs like Barnet has reduced in real terms by over 50% since 2010, but demand for some of our statutory services is increasing at the same time as high inflation rates are pushing up our costs.
“Despite the financial challenges, we are protecting vital frontline and universal services and those to vulnerable residents. Through diligent review we have already identified £35m of efficiencies in the next financial year without affecting the delivery of our essential and frontline services.
“Here in Barnet, we are doing our bit to respond to the financial crisis, and it is only fair that the Chancellor, in his Autumn Statement, does his bit to provide sufficient support for local authorities so damaged by the Government’s mini-budget last year.
“From what I’ve heard so far in his announcement today it is very disappointing, with nothing for adult social care, nothing for children’s services and nothing for inflationary pressures. We are waiting for more detail.”
Notes for editors
The council has also reported a £26m funding gap for the current financial year, with measures already in place to make savings without affecting statutory and other frontline services.
Since the government’s austerity programme was introduced in 2010, the amount of money central government gives to outer London boroughs like Barnet has reduced by over 50% in real terms. During the same time, Barnet’s population has increased by nearly 35,000 people from 2011 to 2021, increasing demand for services. Latent demand following the pandemic and high inflation driving up prices have also increased costs of services such as social care, waste collection and homelessness support, which by law the council must provide.
Read the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy: Business Planning and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2024-2030.pdf (moderngov.co.uk)