UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2023: Local government and gender
Date Posted: Thursday 2nd March 2023
Local government provides or funds many services crucial to women and those they care for, including social care, schools, housing, domestic abuse services and transport. Many of these services provide care to children and adults in need of support. Because women do the majority of unpaid child/care work they depend disproportionately on such services, which redistribute unpaid care and give women more opportunities to participate in the paid economy. Women also make up 75% of local government and school workers – sectors affected by pay cuts and redundancies.
Women’s lives – particularly those of Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and disabled women – have been seriously affected by funding cuts to local government since 2010 and the recent cost-of-living and income crises. This effect has been exacerbated by social security benefit cuts and Covid-19.
‘In 2019/20 councils had 23% – £300 – less to spend per resident than ten years previously. The most deprived councils had suffered 31% funding cuts, compared to 16% in the least deprived councils over the same period.’
While councils’ core spending power will increase by 6% in real terms in 2023-2024, this includes an assumed 3% increase in Council Tax, a 2% rise in the Social Care Precept, single-year Government grants, ring fenced funding and the re-allocation of existing Government funding. When adjusted for inflation and population growth, the final 2023-2024 Funding Settlement for Local Government results in lower funding levels for all councils than in 2015/16. Overall, councils’ spending power has fallen by 26% since 2010.
Excluding extra funding for social care, 26% of the increase in local authority core spending power between 2021/22 and 2024/25 is from grants and 74% from locally raised revenues such as Council Tax. This increased dependence on Council Tax will hit the poorest local authorities hardest. Overall, the most deprived councils have had lower increases in core spending power than the wealthiest councils since 2011/12. The 2023/24 Funding Settlement will do little to support the aims of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
The Women’s Budget Group calls on the government to recognise the severe and gendered impacts of cuts to local authority funding since 2010 and undertake meaningful Equality Impact Assessments on all future finance settlements. We also call for plans to remove central government funding from local authorities to be scrapped. Councils too should carry out EIAs and highlight the impact of cuts on different groups of women. Dramatic reinvestment, not further reduction, is needed to stop these detrimental impacts on the lives of all women and girls, especially Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, elderly and disabled women.