Financial resilience of English local government in the aftermath of COVID-19

Thomas Ahrens, Laurence Ferry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The financial resilience of local authorities has been a serious concern over the past decade due to austerity and its effects on local government budgets despite rising service demands. More recently, the scale and suddenness of the shock from COVID-19 has exacerbated problems of financial resilience. This paper explores the financial management responses required by a sudden, nationwide pandemic of such severity. Design/methodology/approach: This paper applies the concept of financial resilience to English local government to analyse their situation in the aftermath of COVID-19. It is based on a close reading of official reports and the news media. Findings: Local authority’s financial resilience could deal with normal levels of risk arising from austerity. However, the seriousness of COVID-19 alongside pressures still emanating from Brexit requires a significant level of central government support. This is critical as local government is expected to underpin future economic growth of the UK as well as deliver an important social response. Presently, the financial framework for funding individual local authorities through central government in terms of COVID-19 support is not on a reliable footing to answer specific demands. This can lead to gaming and perverse incentives. Originality/value: This is the first paper to connect the financial resilience in the local government framework with the required central government funding procedures for sudden nationwide crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It identifies the need to define what effect key variables, such as local government financial reserves, local deprivation indices and anticipatory financial management practices in local government should have on the determination of central government aid for individual local authorities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-823
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management
Volume32
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 24 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • England
  • Financial resilience
  • Local government

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management

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