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'Five more years of cuts' warns outgoing civil service head

The UK could face five more years of spending cuts and austerity, regardless of which political party is in power, the outgoing head of the the civil service has said.

Sir Bob Kerslake, who stepped down as head of the home civil service as part of a Whitehall shake-up ordered by David Cameron in July, made the comments in a speech to the Institute for Government think-tank in which he reiterated the need for reform.

Suffice it to say that under any government, we face up to a further five years of austerity in public sector spending.

The first five years have been challenging but the second five years are likely to prove even harder for three reasons.

Firstly, the easier savings have already been made. Secondly, we are likely to be doing it against a background of a growing economy and greater competition for good staff.

Thirdly, the sense of urgency that underpinned the first savings programme will be reduced.

– Sir Bob Kerslake

Poll: Voters think austerity has failed

A majority of the public believe the Government's austerity plan has failed, according to a new poll.

Chancellor George Osborne. Credit: PA

According to the ComRes Survey for The Independent, 58% of people agree the Government's economic plan has failed, while only 31% disagree.

But only slightly more people support Labour's "time for change" message rather than any promise from the Conservatives to continue with their plan to reinvigorate the British economy after the next general election in 2015.

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Government: 'Local authorities protected from spending reductions'

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said councils "have been protected from further spending reductions" over the course of next year.

Local Authorities have been protected from further spending reductions for 2013-14, where the average spending power reduction is just 1.7%.

Government is helping councils grow their local economies through bespoke city deals, over £650 million New Homes Bonus, 24 Enterprise Zones and £770 million in Growing Places Funding.

In addition the Government is offering a £450 million third year's council tax freeze - potentially worth over £200 to Band D residents.

However, councils still account for a quarter of all public spending - £114 billion - so it is vital they continue to play their part tackling the inherited budget deficit by making all of the 50 sensible savings Ministers recommend, such as better procurement, greater transparency, using reserves more creatively and sharing back offices.

– Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman

Local government 'bears the brunt' of cuts

Today's local government settlement confirms that local government will continue to bear the brunt of public sector cuts.

The cut of up to 8.8% provides no comfort for the next 12 months and, when added to further cuts in 2014/15, will present significant challenges at a time when local government should be focused on economic growth. This settlement is late and the uncertainty and speculation has only made a critical situation worse.

Budget constraints measured in the billions, particularly at a time of rising demand, will require strategic, not tactical, solutions.

Greater powers for local government to impact economic growth, to integrate and share across public services and greater recognition of the impact of welfare changes on local services would also help to support councils minimise the impact on the vulnerable through these challenging times.

Nevertheless, this settlement will increase the risk of more councils being financially unviable and focus needs to be given to how this market failure is managed. Very difficult local choices will now need to be made and local government should have the freedom to make these choices, even when setting council tax.

– Joanna Killian, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers

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Parents warn Government 'lay off our kids' over cuts

At the Nunsmoore centre in Newcastle, which provides child care support for children and parents from 0-12, there is a strong warning to the government to 'lay off our kids'

One mother Kerry Heron said;

"the cuts to local government are disgusting. My eldest will be without a play service next year thanks to these measures and I'm scared about what impact it's going to have on him - with almost all the libraries closing and the local pool too, where are our kids supposed to go?

"This is just going to lead to more antisocial behaviour and I worry what kind of future there is for my kids."

In Newcastle they are planning to start cutting back on not just discretionary services but statutory ones too.

The provision of child care support is among those being hardest hit.

Pickles: 'Councils must do their bit'

An estimated 70% of council income will now be raised locally compared to 56% under the centrally-distributed "begging-bowl" Formula Grant system, according to the Communities and Local Government Department (DCLG).

From April 2013, councils can channel this greater local control into encouraging local jobs and local firms via a new business rate retention incentive that rewards them for growth. It could potentially add £10 billion to the economy by 2020.

– Communities and Local Government Department

The DCLG also published 50 examples of where it believed councils could save money, ranging from opening a coffee shop in libraries to scrapping the post of chief executive.

Councils must keep doing their bit to tackle the inherited budget deficit because they account for a quarter of all public spending and still get through over £114 billion of taxpayers' money each year.

– Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary

Labour slams council cuts plans

Labour said that funding cuts to councils will have a huge impact on services, and claimed that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is "out of touch".

It is clear that he is living in a world of his own, because he simply does not understand the impact that his decisions on funding are having on the services and local people who use and rely upon them.

– Hilary Benn, Shadow communities and local government secretary

Pickles: 'Some councils must make more savings'

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles told the House of Commons that a small number of local authorities will require larger savings to be made, but he said that no council will face a loss of more than 8.8% of their total spending power thanks to a new efficiency support grant;

As the name implies, to qualify, councils will have to improve services to receive this grant. It is unfair on the rest of local government to expect them to subsidise other councils' failure to embrace modernity.

Mr Pickles said councils were "sitting on" a record £16 billion of reserves.

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