The Institute of Fiscal Studies joined CHASM, City Redi and Inlogov at the University of Birmingham for a fascinating presentation and panel discussion on funding public services in cities across the UK, and Birmingham in particular. This event was part of the 16th Annual ESRC Festival of Social Science, held on 7 November 2018.
The event explored the issue of local tax and spending powers that are assuming new importance – especially in England’s major cities like Birmingham, Manchester and London, which are at the vanguard of devolution. New ‘combined authorities’ are taking on additional responsibilities over skills, transport, and local economic strategies and are pushing for further tax and spending powers. And, as 100% business rates retention pilot area, the revenues of councils in the West Midlands increasingly depend on how well local business rates and council tax revenues perform. The aim is greater powers and additional local retention of tax revenues will incentivise and empower local government to improve services and boost the local economy.
At the same time, central government is ring-fencing funding specifically for adult social care and schools – and plans a new national ‘formula’ for allocating the latter. It cites the ‘unacceptable variation’ in funding and quality as justifications for such moves to tackle existing postcode lotteries. Panel members, including Simon Collinson, John Fender, Professor of Macroeconomics at the University of Birmingham, Jonathan Tew, Assistant Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, and Emma Woolf, Chair of Birmingham Community Matters discussed this could mean for the taxes we pay and the services we get.