BARNSLEY Council leader Sir Steve Houghton has hit out the government following the latest finance settlement - stating the local authority will now have to make some ‘difficult decisions’.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced that funding available to councils will rise to more than £64bn next year, up from £59.7bn in 2023/24.

It said the councils will receive a minimum three per cent uplift in core spending power - the amount councils have to spend from a combination of government grants, council tax and business rates.

But Sir Steve said that the ‘increase’ is only a fraction of what’s actually needed.

“This disappointing announcement provides nothing new over what was announced by government in late 2022,” he added.

“There’s no additional funding over and above what has been announced previously and it doesn’t reflect the huge increase in our cost pressures since then.

“There has been a huge increase in demand and cost for a range of services, particularly children’s social care.

“This is a national problem, yet the government is leaving local councils to deal with it without the funding needed to do so.”

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Barnsley Council’s cabinet members will discuss the calculation of the council tax base early in the new year - but it’s now likely bosses will have to raise the fee by the maximum amount.

“When government says local councils will have more money available next year, it’s a fraction of what’s needed, and it assumes that all councils will increase council tax by the maximum amount allowed in 2024/25,” Sir Steve said.

“This means we’re once again left facing the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding.

“Without the required investment from government, the funding gap can only be closed in the long-term by cuts to local services and increases in council tax and other charges.

“That is putting the burden onto Barnsley people, rather than national government which should be taking responsibility.

“Government has already added additional pressure on our budgets this year, by increasing the national living wage, rightly, but without giving local councils any means to pay for those increased costs.

“This adds to the already massive pressure we’re under.”

Barnsley is now looking at a ‘very difficult few years ahead’ according to Sir Steve - who urged the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to re-think the current situation and hand over more funding to local councils.

“We’ve said for some time the local government finance system is broken and the settlement announcement is further evidence of this,” he said.

“We’re fortunate in Barnsley that financially we’ve been extremely well run for many years, particularly since the beginning of austerity in 2010.

“Yet every year balancing the budget gets harder and harder, and while we have a plan for this year and next, we are looking at a very difficult few years ahead.

“I urge the Chancellor to reconsider and to provide the funding needed to help us maintain vital local services for people who need them.”