This February to April local councils across the UK will be setting their budgets for 2016/17 in unprecedented times. The Comprehensive Spending Review has set local government in England on a new course where it will be expected to raise far more of its own income through Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates. Revenue Support Grant, which transfers money between local authorities, is essentially being abolished by 2020 – to be discussed in greater length in a paper to be published in Local Government Studies soon.
Local government in the UK has to continue providing a range of statutory services. The budgetary pressures upon them are leading to strategic choices to remodel services through outsourcing and co-producing services with local communities. The editorial team of Local Government Studies has put together a virtual special issue gathering together recent publications to inform this debate. The papers present academic research and commentary on the situation UK local government finds itself in now: with review articles by Peter John, Vivien Lowndes and Laurence Pratchett, and John Stewart, along with a review of the extent of the cuts and how local councils are coping from Bailey et al.
We then turn to specific contributions as to how local government is responding, or might respond, to the austerity it faces: through case studies of the devolution of risk to local communities and individuals in Bristol and Liverpool; a discussion of resilience; place-based leadership and innovation and finally strategic commissioning of outcome-focused services. We close the special issue by drawing on international evidence to ask how we might understand the financial risks local authorities face, but also the difficult link between public attitudes and fiscal challenges and choices.
The following articles are free to read through this link only until 31 December 2016.
Peter Matthews is a Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Stirling. He is a member of the editorial team of Local Government Studies published in association with INLOGOV.