Street lights off to save elderly care?

Council economising may lead to switching street lights off in order to help pay for funding elderly care at home. The Local Government Association has written to George Osborne to beg for more NHS funding to be funnelled to councils to meet rising care costs.

Even at current levels the LGA says many councils are having to turn off lights and close parks.

Elderly cash concern

The LGA claims social care cash has already been hobbled by a 20% fall in the last three years. It claims 86 councils in England now think their projected income will only cover around 85% of their spending commitments come 2016 - and half of these councils worry this will mean slashed spending on social services for the elderly and disabled.

The pressure is very much on councils to find ways of saving money so that basic spending on core services and the most vulnerable is maintained. Councils have seen their budgets cut by around 30% since the Coalition came to power - and the cumulative effect of that is building.

Shire rift

It also means, potentially, more likelihood of poor planning and services being cut at the last minute, due to the resources pressure. What is new also is that the gap, or rift, between Metropolitan-based Conservatives and Conservative-run authorities from the shires is now widening.

Street lights in Leeds look likely to be switched off in an effort to save cash, though the switch-off would be relegated to 8,000 of the council's 92,000 lights - so far. Currently the bill for Leeds' street lighting comes in at just under £4m a year, despite using energy efficient light bulbs.

There is, however, close consultation claimed between the emergency services and the police on where the lights will go off, avoiding, for example, high crime areas and bus stops.

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£4bn savings - claimed

The only way of maintaining public services, argues the LGA in its letter to Osborne, is to devolve budgets "away from Whitehall to local areas to increase cooperation between public agencies, save money and improve services."

The LGA claims research by Ernst and Young shows this would save up to £4 billion a year across the public sector. "It would be bad for the country," the LGA adds, "bad for people and bad for our prospects of economic recovery if funding for local services is cut further to reinforce inefficiencies within Whitehall."

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