Districts are looking to cut recreation, regeneration and community support services as the sector faces more than £900million in additional budget pressures over the next two years.
New analysis of government data by the District Councils Network suggests that inflation means the total budget deficit for District Councils in 2022-23 has risen to £390m, representing 11% of net spending by District Councils. districts. Without new support, this will rise to £530m in 2023-24 (14% of net spending).
A new survey of DCN members has revealed that councils will be forced to cut preventative services such as recreation services or homeless support due to these rising costs. DCN received responses from 65 District Councils, or 36% of all District Councils.
Councils have expressed concern that the rising cost of fuel and energy is expected to put pressure on waste collection and leisure services in particular.
The survey highlights that 70% of councils surveyed are already considering cutting leisure services, 66% may be forced to cut community support and resilience services, 37% may cut social care and 20% are considering cutting help for the homeless.
For example, a coastal defense project faces a 40% cost increase and a recreation center construction project expects its costs to increase by 15%.
Sharon Taylor (Lab), DCN Vice-Chair and Finance Spokesperson, said: “District Councils are facing a perfect storm. Inflation and wage pressures are driving up costs, just as the cost of living crisis is hitting our residents and fueling demand for our services.
Cllr Taylor said District Councils are currently ‘struggling with some very difficult decisions’.
“We provide a wide range of essential and statutory frontline services to 100% of our residents.
“In many places, the work of the districts to make our regions good places to live and thrive could fall victim to inflation, with cultural services, parks, waste collection and planning facing cuts, and regeneration works threatened by rising costs,” she added.
DCN called on the government to work with the industry to resolve the issues.
A government spokesman said: “We have made an extra £3.7billion available to councils this year and are ready to speak to anyone who is worried about balancing their budgets.
“We are also offering a discount on energy prices this winter for councils whose bills have been significantly inflated by the global energy crisis.”