LGA calls for Government to return cash to councils

Houses of parliament
Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 09:51
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Council leaders are calling on the Government to return money top-sliced from funding used to support disadvantaged children and families, so they can spend it on vital frontline services.

Ahead of the largest national conference on children's services, Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove asking him to clarify why £150 million is to be removed from council funding in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Sir Merrick is asking for assurances that the money will be returned to councils amid concerns this further funding cut will severely hamper their ability to deliver vital early years and family intervention programmes, including Sure Start Children's Centres.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, is concerned that the cut in funding that was once paid into the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) will leave councils less able to deliver targeted early support to children, young people and families.

The EIG is a non-ring fenced grant that was paid to councils to fund services including Sure Start centres, youth services and the Connexions careers advice service.

In July it emerged that from 2013-14 the EIG would no longer be paid as a separate grant but would be divided into other existing funding pots, with £150 million to be retained by the Department for Education in each of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years for central purposes.

Council leaders are now calling on the Government to explain why the money, which was previously announced in the local government finance settlement, is being withheld and what exactly it will be used for.

Sir Merrick said:

"As far as we can see there is no justification for the removal of a top-slice of £300 million over the next two financial years.

"The Government has provided no explanation for this arbitrary reduction in the local government settlement as announced in the last Spending Review, nor has it offered any explanation for how the money will be used.

"We are asking for transparency and clarity over why money, that hard-pressed councils had previously banked on and budgeted for, is now being taken from them.

"This money is vital for funding services that many of the most disadvantaged in our society depend on. Councils have already taken a huge hit to their coffers. This arbitrary removal of millions of pounds will only increase the pressure on already over-stretched council budgets.

"Investing in early intervention has been shown to result in cost savings later on. Reducing councils' flexibility to respond to local needs and target early years support makes no sense if we are to improve the life chances of children and young people."

Source: ©LGA

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