Whitehall is regularly drawn into costly and reactionary spending cycles to mitigate crises within the NHS and adult social care, but this extra money is not sorting out any of the underlying problems these services face, suggests the latest Performance Tracker report from the Institute for Government (IfG) and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
The government is spending over £10bn in five years just to keep troubled services – such as hospitals and prisons – going, according to a new report. Yet this extra money is not sorting out any of the underlying problems these services face.
The report concluded that ‘government is being forced into poor and reactionary spending decisions, instead of getting ahead of problems before they become crises’.
Ahead of chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Budget, Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, warned the financial position for public services was so bad that it ‘may now be more effective to stop some services than see them collapse’.
The report also warned that Whitehall was failing to collect enough data on traditional local government services, such as waste collection and road maintenance, to adequately manage the risks to these services.
Mr Whiteman added: ‘Government must go beyond moving from one reactive cash injection to the next because this fails to assess the sustainability of many public services.
Dr Emily Andrews, author of the report and senior researcher at the IfG, warned that large swathes of government spending now resemble responses to natural disasters. ‘If the chancellor and government cannot break out of this reactive cycle they must accept that budgets will rise or services will deteriorate,’ she said.
Chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, Cllr Claire Kober, said: ‘We have long warned that inadequate funding for local government has a knock-on effect on other parts of the public sector, which are often left to pick up the pieces of councils being forced to scale back services.