East Anglia: Council spending falls dramatically as more academies open

NEW figures from public sector accountants show that the amount of money spent by local authorities has fallen dramatically over recent years.

According to the figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants (CIPFA) the amount spent by councils in East Anglia fell by 7% over the last year.

It is one of the largest drops in the country – only the East Midlands (7.5%) and the South West (7.1%) registered larger falls.

The drop in expenditure on education – the largest element of county council spending – was 14.6%.

However this drop is largely because of the number of schools that have been transferred away from local authority control with the establishment of academies and free schools which are completely independent of councils.

The one area that has seen an increase in spending over recent years is social care – which is likely to continue as the number of older people increases.

Alison Scott, CIPFA’s local government policy lead, said: “These statistics illustrate the changing nature of local council services as a result of spending cuts coupled with changes in how services are provided such as the academies programme.

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“As cuts and service transformation continue to bite the balance of council services will continue to change.”

In Suffolk there have been a number of academies established over the last few years which have led to a dramatic fall in the county’s education expenditure.

The news comes as the county council meets today for its last meeting before the autumn – and it will hear that last year it underspent its budget by �13million.

That is partly because of reductions in staff expenditure – the number of employees has fallen substantially over the last 18 months – but also because several departments at the county kept spending down.

Although the county council is no longer directly responsible for schools which have become academies or free schools, all the state schools in the county do buy in procurement and contract management services from the authority.

An example of this are the new academies being built at Ipswich and Felixstowe, which are having their construction managed by the county council on behalf of their sponsors.

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