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£51.8bn ‘black hole’ alert over funding for councils

COUNCILS face a £51.8billion funding ‘black hole’ over the next six years, a new report has claimed.

Plugging the shortfall would mean annual council tax rises, new charges for services and fresh ‘rounds of draconian cuts’, civic chiefs say.

Unless extra government funding is provided, only ‘bare minimum’ services will be possible, claims the County Councils Network.

Its call for extra resources in the forthcoming government spending review comes after it commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to study the effect rising costs and increased demand on services could have on council budgets until 2025.

A spokesman for CCN, which represents 26 county councils and ten county unitary authorities across England, said: ‘Importantly, filling this funding gap only keeps services standing still, rather than improving or enhancing them, nor reversing the last nine years of cutbacks.’

And he warned: ‘If councils raise council tax by 2.99 per cent each year, the cumulative funding gap will still be over £30billion.’

CCN chairman Paul Carter fears ‘many vital services’, will all but disappear if extra funds are not forthcoming.

The study also found spending on adult social care will rise by £6.1billion nationally by 2025 compared with a decade before.

■ THE number of young people not in education, employment or training has fallen, official figures show. There were 764,000 so-called Neets among 16- to 24-year-olds in the three months to March. The number was 24,000 fewer than the quarter to December and 34,000 lower than a year ago. Two in five were looking for work, with the rest unavailable for employment. Ben Keighley, of recruitment firm Socially Recruited, said it was ‘a sad reflection on society’ that 450,000 youngsters were not actively looking for a job.