Councils across the East Midlands face a collective funding gap of over £181m in the next financial year forcing them to cut essential services, says a report published by UNISON.
Waste collections, leisure centres, nurseries and other vital services will all be hit according to the findings based on information* from local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.
The UNISON report shows that Leicester City Council is set to have the largest funding gap of all the authorities in the region with a funding gap of £48.3m. The next worst affected authority in the region is North Northamptonshire Council (£25.1m), then Derbyshire County Council (£19.0m).
The record shortfall, totalling £181m across the 40 councils in the East Midlands in 2023/24, means local authorities will be forced to rely on dwindling reserves, and cut services and jobs, says UNISON.
The report shows there is worse to come with the cumulative funding gap rising even further in 2024/25 to over £360m, says UNISON.
UNISON says skyrocketing inflation, energy costs and the economic impact of the mini budget mean that the actual shortfall will be many times higher.
The picture is likely to get bleaker still, says UNISON. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has spoken of further cuts to the public sector, which are likely to compound the crisis in local government funding.
And as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and inflation soars, even greater strain will be placed on councils as their costs increase and demand grows for food banks and other support.
UNISON’s research is based on data relating to 39 local councils across the region. It found that all but four (Chesterfield, Harborough, High Peak and North East Derbyshire) have predicted budget gaps.
Most are responding to the crisis by cutting services and activities, examples include:
• Derbyshire County Council is closing 8 adult disability centres and 7 authority owned care homes resulting in over 100 job losses.
• Nottingham City Council has earmarked five children’s centres for closure, closed a leisure centre in Radford and have cancelled this year’s Bonfire night and fireworks display.
UNISON says even more services – as well as jobs – will be at risk if councils have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt.
UNISON East Midlands head of local government Rachel Hodson said: “Local authorities provide the essential services everyone relies on such as waste collection, road repairs, and children’s care.
“But cash-strapped councils are having to resort to ever more desperate measures after years of austerity just to keep services going. Now the government looks set to make their predicament infinitely worse with emergency cuts to spending following the mini-budget fiasco.
“I have written to all the region’s Conservative MPs to ask them to sort the crisis in local government funding and give councils the cash they need to save services.”