Many local authorities are struggling to sort out their budgets for 2021, the NRC reported on Monday, after studying provincial government responses to local authorities’ spending plans.
In total, 120 are in financial difficulty and 12 are in such poor shape they have been placed under provincial government supervision, the paper said. Swimming pool, library and playground closures are on the cards in some areas because of the cash shortages.
The financial problems are largely down to spending on youth social work and helping the elderly remain independent, both of which have fallen under council control since 2015. The decentralisation process was coupled with government spending cuts, because ministers thought councils could organise both tasks more efficiently.
But that has not been the case, and the coronavirus pandemic has only made the situation worse by bringing extra costs, the NRC said. In addition, local councils are also now being charged with putting the government’s climate change tasks into practice.
Some 85% of local authorities’ budgets comes from central government and most of the rest is raised via local taxes. Last week it emerged that local authority taxes on home owners are rising by an average of 5.3% this year.
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