The challenges facing new councillors


By Alison Scott, Assistant Director, Local Government Finance and Policy at CIPFA

The recent elections for county councils in England has set me thinking about the challenges that will face those Councillors that have been elected.

This next term is unlikely to be about improvements to services but instead will be dominated by the need to make cuts in expenditure against increasing demands on services.

What is also clear is that, in the future, these expenditure reductions will be increasingly difficult with all the low hanging fruit having been taken and the search for efficiency savings becoming less productive.

This makes it ever more important to ensure that these new Councillors are given an early induction in the constraints and opportunities offered by local government finance and how national frameworks and decisions have a direct impact on the resources available to them. The localisation of business rates may provide opportunities but it also brings real risks and it is important that these are properly understood.

Here at CIPFA we spend a lot of time producing complex financial guidance aimed at those with a strong background in finance and accountancy. It would be easy for us to forget that decisions are ultimately not by finance professionals but by the people they advise. And the task of distilling the local government finance system into a short publication that can be easily digested by a wider non-specialist audience is challenging.

With the increasing impact of local government finance on front line services we have looked at what we produce and have completely re-written our Introductory Guide to Local Government Finance in an accessible and easily understood prose. It is now up to us and finance colleagues to get all decision makers more interested in local government finance and better informed.