Councils told by Government to do 'more with less'

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Indy Politics

Local councils must continue to provide "reasonable" services to the public despite swingeing cuts in central government funding, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles warned today.

Mr Pickles, who is due later today to set out the financial settlement for councils in England for the next two years, said that local authorities would have to do "more for less".

With town hall chiefs braced for cuts of around 10%, Mr Pickles insisted that his plans were in line with advice given by the Local Government Association.

"I have been offered advice by the Local Government Association as to what councils can manage in terms of a reduction in their spending powers and I am well within those figures for the majority of councils," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He said that it was up to councils to cut costs through measures such as sharing chief executives and back office services to ensure that frontline services were protected.

"I am expecting local authorities to provide more for less, I am expecting them to be able to provide a reasonable level of service," he said.

"Local authorities shouldn't have some kind of alibi in feeling that these have been imposed from the centre and therefore they have got to pass every single cut on to the frontline."

Mr Pickles is also publishing the Government's Localism Bill to give groups in local communities greater scope to take control of some council services in line with David Cameron's vision of the "Big Society".

"This is about a new constitutional arrangement, it is about shifting power down to localities," he said.

Shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint dismissed the Government's plans for greater "localism" as "cynical and unfair".

"Their plans ring hollow when at the same time they are cutting local government by 27% on average over the next four years. It's offering councils devolution while holding a gun to their head," she said.

"The coalition's decision to hit lower and middle income neighbourhoods with the heaviest cuts in the next 12 months will inevitably impact on the vital frontline services families rely on, jobs and growth."