Public libraries and leisure centres may disappear by the end of the decade unless councils receive an “immediate injection of money”, a new report has warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said yesterday the money to fund popular services will shrink by 90% as adult social care and other statutory responsibilities soak up almost all of the cash councils spend.
The “conservative estimates” contained in the report show that by 2020 a £16.5 billion funding shortfall will exist between the amount of money available to councils to provide services and the predicted cost of maintaining them at current levels.
The LGA, which represents 373 councils in England and Wales, including Bristol City Council, called on the Government to introduce “long overdue” reform of how adult social care is paid for and give councils access to more resources.
The report comes a week after former Bristol council leader Barbara Janke called on the council to end the “scandal” of how Britain cares for the elderly.
The Clifton councillor, who stood down as council leader and leader of the city’s Liberal Democrat councillors in May, called on the city to press the government to implement the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission in full.
The commission called for a major reform of how care for the elderly is funded to cope with Britain’s ageing population.
Mr Dilnot called for the state and the individual to share the cost of old age care but that it should be capped to prevent anyone having to pay more than around £35,000 during their lifetime.
Bristol City Council is facing a £70million cut in its budget over the next three years, but yesterday reported it had underspent by £1.6m last year.
A council spokesman said the surplus would be carried forward into this financial year to “offset budget pressures particularly around safeguarding costs and the rising number of children in care”.
In a report to next week’s Cabinet, the end of year financial position will show that spending by directorates was £0.6m over budget, mainly due to the increased cost of children in care placements. But this was offset by savings in capital financing costs and use of contingencies provisions and grants.
Cllr Tim Kent, Cabinet Member for the Budget, said: “In times of challenging budgets for local government, it is welcome news that we are in a position to carry forward an underspend into the next financial year.
“This is due to very careful financial management by the cabinet and officers. We have been determined to bear down on administrative and back office costs, at the same time as protecting services to the vulnerable in the city.
“The budget pressures continue this financial year. We need to find a further £21 million net savings, plus deal with national factors such as the rising numbers of children in care. Carrying forward an underspend this year is therefore a sensible move.”
The full Finance and Performance Outturn report will be made to Cabinet next Wednesday – see www.bristol.gov.uk/cabinetjuly