Council leaders’ confidence in protecting front line services is crumbling in the face of sustained financial and service delivery pressures, according to PwC’s annual survey of local authority leaders and chief executives.
75% of council leaders, and 61% of chief executives believe their council is using technology effectively to deliver better public services, but only 29% of the public think so. Despite this, almost half – 48% – want more services to be available digitally, including 40% of over 55s. By comparison, 36% and 31% respectively said they still prefer to deal with their council in person or by telephone.
Nine out of 10 council leaders and chief executives believe that some local authorities will get into serious financial difficulty in the next five years and that eight out of 10 will fail to deliver essential services. Two thirds of council leaders believe some local authorities will get into financial crisis in the next year.
Despite the sector surprising itself with the scale of saving that have been made over the past three years, for many, another round of savings of the same scale are now required again.
Public concern about the scale and impact of local government service cuts is also shifting to its impact on the community rather than individuals. Overall, half of the respondents are concerned about the impact of cuts on them personally, but concern for the wider community impact is higher (58%), particularly in the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, and Wales, where over 60% are concerned.
Jonathan House, PwC local government team comments:
“The gap between how councils see their own financial outlook and the health of the sector as a whole has closed. While in previous years, leaders and chief executives thought it would be others who would end up in financial crisis, this year for the first time they are more significantly concerned about their own financial context.
“It’s to the sector’s credit that they have managed the scale of savings to date, with only half the public aware of any reductions or cuts in services. We are increasingly seeing councils question their existing business model for delivering services and getting the job done, and that will need much smarter approaches to technology, partnering and delivery.”