• Councils close to going bust, says Tory local government chief

    1st October 2013 | News | Claire
  • ………………………. Sir Merrick Cockell says latest round of austerity cuts have left many local authorities on verge of bankruptcy

    The most senior Conservative in local government has warned that the finances of some councils are close to breaking point as a result of the latest round of government-imposed spending cuts.

    Sir Merrick Cockell, chair of the Local Government Association, predicts that some councils will go bust after it emerged last month that the next round of budget cuts will amount to 15% for the financial year 2015-16.

    Previously, chancellor George Osborne had set out a 10% cut in the comprehensive spending review last June — an increase in the sought for spending reductions that Cockell told the Guardian was unsustainable.

    Cockell, who led the west London borough of Kensington and Chelsea for 13 years, said: “We are being pushed into a position where either things will fail or the system has to change … we can’t cope unless someone takes that big step … to change the way we operate.”

    His comments, before Tory conference address from communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles, bring to the surface simmering resentment among senior municipal Tories at the scale of the reductions.

    The minister has dismissed Labour complaints as scaremongering but Cockell’s comments suggest worries go wider.

    Cockell added: “The system will be fundamentally changed [with] the fracturing of a lot of public services – especially if you [ministers] are controlling the council tax.”

    Councils have to implement budget cuts of 33% during this parliament. But the LGA said councils would have to make immediate cuts to soften the impact of the 15% reduction in 2015-16.