The South East is ready and willing to take on the challenge of levelling up deprived communities, tackling climate change and upskilling to drive the economic recovery, but local government needs more funding.
This week’s Spending Review brings some relief to local authorities, but there is concern in the South East that the settlement will not meet the extra cost and demand pressures councils continue to face.
Local authorities are wary of rising inflation and meeting the cost of wage increases driven by the lifting of the public sector pay freeze. Almost two years of extra spending and lower income following COVID-19, mean local government continues to be squeezed.
Business rates reform is welcome news for high streets across the South East as we continue to support businesses and local communities to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
The South East hoped for a clear financial commitment from the Chancellor that funding would be directed towards grassroots climate change initiatives. Councils already have plans to support local people on the journey to net zero and it is disappointing that local government’s role in meeting the climate challenge seems to have been overlooked.
Investing in skills will help further boost the South East economy that continues to be a net contributor to the Treasury. Funding announced this week, should be directed locally, to help councils collaborate with independent providers to tailor training to local economies and business needs.
The Government’s levelling up agenda needs to be clearer. Targeted investment is urgently needed to address inequalities within the south – not just between the south and north of England.
Listen to South East Council’s Chair, Cllr Nicholas Heslop talk to BBC Radio Kent on the morning of the Budget and Spending Review 2021. Catch the full interview at 8am.