It’s a fair deal for councils, says Pickles

I SECURED a fair deal for councils in the Government Spending Review last Wednesday which will mean they can protect the interests of hard-working families and the most vulnerable in society.

Given the legacy of debt we have to tackle, tough choices have been inevitable.

But the deal we’ve struck has been to protect frontline services by cutting out bureaucracy and central Government.

We’re giving local authorities like Tower Hamlets unprecedented freedom and control over their money—so they can decide for themselves how best to meet their needs.

To help them, we’ve set aside �650 million to fully fund a council tax freeze for householders next year.

If councils decide not to put up council tax, we will provide them with an increase in funding so services do not have to suffer and families are not hit in the pocket.

We have cut the red tape which comes attached to public money, putting councils in charge of more than �7 billion to meet the needs of their communities. Billions more will go to councils to support social care and vulnerable elderly people.

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We are giving them new powers to borrow money to invest in infrastructure and are providing incentives for those authorities which build more homes.

We are also scrapping the ‘culture of targets’ which wastes millions of pounds each year and stops councils concentrating on what people actually want.

It is only right, then, that people will be counting on their town hall to use all this to protect frontline services. But there will have to be big changes in the way that councils work. They have to ask themselves fundamental questions about what they do or whether others like the voluntary and community sector are better placed instead.

This is a big ask of councils, but I have every confidence that they will be able to rise to the challenge.

Eric Pickles

Communities & Local Government Secretary