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Manifesto calls for fundamental reset of local government

Red and white image of tower blocks and lower level housing by a river.
Key Cities Newsdesk
April 18, 2024
City leaders demand £4bn on day one of next administration to stabilise local government.

Key Cities – the national network representing 27 urban centres across the UK and 10% of the population – has today published a manifesto demanding the next government commits to a new fair funding outcome, with £4bn funding immediately distributed to local authorities.

In the context of a council funding and resourcing crisis, Key Cities is calling for this funding requirement (as identified by the Levelling Up Select Committee), to be shared as the first step in a wider reset of local government. It is imperative that Government changes how funds for local services are dispensed, to allocate grants based on the reality of a local authority’s current tax bases and needs.

The manifesto, which has the cross-party backing of all Key Cities members, sets out a range of policy recommendations for the next administration. These address the most critically stretched areas of local government and are designed to make local authorities financially stable, mitigating long-term, unsustainable risks for national government.

Devolution of powers is at the core of all the recommendations: city leaders and councils are best placed to drive positive change within their communities, whether through improving local services, facilitating partnerships or working with other stakeholders. Funding is crucial, but giving places the powers to instigate their own initiatives is also central to ensuring their long-term success.

The recommendations cover a number of key areas: fair funding review and council tax reform; social care funding; housing and homelessness, and net zero. Some of the key asks include:

  • Providing £1.5bn additional funding to support Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • Ringfencing funding for children’s social care based on actual local need
  • Reforming funding for adult social care with a long-term commitment to remove the precept
  • Reforming funding for ageing populations with premiums directed to local authorities with the most acute need as part of fair funding review
  • Reinstating national housebuilding targets
  • Increasing funding for supporting the delivery and management of temporary accommodation
  • Introducing new regulations to give local authorities powers to create net zero investment ecosystems based on local needs.


Cllr John Merry, Chair of Key Cities and Deputy Mayor of Salford City Council, said:

“Since its foundation a decade ago, Key Cities has advocated for municipal government and has consistently called for more financial capacity to be granted to local authorities, along with the power to allocate resources in the most beneficial way for their community. This need has now become acute with many local authorities of all colours experiencing an unsustainable strain on funding and resources, placing even statutory services at risk. The recent Budget offered nothing to remedy the situation.

“It is therefore crucial that whoever comes to power at the next election addresses this crisis on day one, by committing to a new fair funding outcome and rethinking the relationship between national and local government. Our local authorities should have the autonomy to drive positive change in their communities, with devolved powers and funding to enable them to thrive in the long term. I hope that all political parties will take note of our manifesto when developing their own policies for the upcoming election.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Co-Chair of the Key Cities APPG, added:

“With councils up and down the country in a state of crisis, it’s imperative that the next administration takes decisive action to stabilise local government and ensure local communities have access to the services they need and deserve.

“With its cross-party membership, Key Cities is an authoritative and unified voice for UK cities. This Manifesto shines a light on the major issues affecting our urban areas and offers practical recommendations to remedy them. Policymakers, take note.”

The full set of recommendations in the Key Cities Manifesto is as follows:

Fair funding review and council tax reform

  • Immediately following election, government to commit to a new fair funding outcome on day one and within 50 days distribute the immediate unconditional £4bn as called for by the Levelling Up Select Committee.
  • Change the way Government dispenses funds for local services, and allocate grants based on a local authority’s current tax bases and needs.
  • Revaluation of the 25m homes in England with legislation to ensure those values are regularly updated (following Welsh model).


Properly fund social care

  • Implement the recommendations from the Dilnot report from 2011 including a ‘Dilnot cap’ and invest significantly more money in councils’ care budgets and strengthen the workforce.
  • Additional £1.5bn from government to support SEND.
  • Instigate a renewed focus on prevention with considerable investment and in the meantime introduce ringfencing for children’s social care based on a council’s needs.
  • Reform of the way adult social care is funded, with direct central government funding to relieve the intolerable pressure of adult social care in the short term, with a long-term commitment to remove the adult social care precept entirely.
  • Ageing population premium directed to local authorities with the most acute ageing populations as part of fair funding review.


 Housing and homelessness

  • Reinstate realistic national housebuilding targets.
  • Household Support Fund to be extended beyond March, avoiding the damaging impact to those most in need.
  • Extension of the Local Housing Allowance for the duration of the next parliament and link to inflation.
  • Increase funding to support the delivery and management of temporary accommodation.
  • Award specific grants for estate regeneration projects that enable decarbonisation at scale.
  • More encouragement for modern methods of construction (MMC) through government initiatives, with a national strategy created and implemented, in order to build at speed and at scale.
  • Affordable rent model to be amended, rather than 80% of local market rent, it should be based on the social rent in the area.


Devolution of powers in priority sectors including Net Zero

  • Net Zero – redefine the role of local government by establishing new regulations that gives local authorities the power to create investment ecosystems based on local needs.
  • Net Zero – more transparency on the decision-making process around national grid connectivity for renewable schemes and clarify timelines with local government.
  • Culture – government to place culture at the heart of a renewed drive for hyperlocal devolution and establish a £100m nation-wide development programme for creative industries microclusters.
  • Skills – a comprehensive devolution of skills powers and funding, not just to mayoral combined authorities but to municipalities, to better tailor provision to local needs and opportunities.


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