Spending Review and Autumn Statement: Big changes for councils in the East

George Osborne Image copyright Reuters

Well, now we know. The planned tax credit cuts that would have affected 338,000 children in the East, according the the Children's Society, have been scrapped.

George Osborne pulled another rabbit out of the hat as part of the spending review this autumn. Police funding won't be cut either and police and crime commissioners are to have more "flexibility" about charging precepts on our council tax bills, although quite what that means isn't entirely clear yet.

The biggest change is to local government, whose entire funding base is to change over the next four years.

Overall, the Department of Communities and Local Government is to take a 29% cut, the chancellor announced.

We are to see the end of the government grant to local authorities, which at present accounts for between a quarter and a third of their finance but councils are on the road towards keeping all their business rates by the end of the parliament.

Councils are also going to be able to increase council tax by 2% to pay for social care. That's in addition to the 2% increase they are already allowed without having to hold a referendum.

David Finch, the Conservative Leader of Essex County Council said: "This is a bad black day for local government. The cuts that we are going to have to look into, in terms of the details of them, do not augur well for local government which actually has been at the forefront of efficiency and saving money for the taxpayer.

"I think there will be significant changes in the way we have to deliver services for the residents of Essex. I don't see why government could not from central funds have given money for Social Care instead of putting an additional 2% potentially onto the taxpayers of Essex."

In other measures, the chancellor announced:

  • £75m for the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratories.
  • Harlow is confirmed as the new home for all of Public Health England.
  • £5 million will go towards the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft.
  • New Enterprise Zones will be created in Norfolk and Suffolk, Cambridge and Luton, with the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft zone extended.
  • There will be £7m to support new air routes, some of which will go towards the Norwich to Exeter and Norwich to Newcastle routes.
  • 155 flood defence schemes in the East of England will receive £260m over the next six years, protecting around 17,000 households here.
  • And an extra squadron of F35 Joint Strike Fighters will be created and based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.