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Local government in England is handled by several different types of local authority – in some areas it is split into two tiers (of district and county councils), while in others a single authority handles all local government responsibilities. The needs and relative deprivation of these areas vary widely, and so does the amount of money available to each.

Inner London boroughs receive more grant funding per person from central Government than any other type of local authority, while shire counties and the districts within them receive the least. These variations are considerably reduced when one instead looks at the local authorities’ core spending power, which takes into account the differing amounts of money that each authority can raise on its own behalf.

On average in England, grant funding and spending power has decreased in real terms every year from 2010/11 to 2020/21 across all types of local authority. Spending power decreased steadily over much of the same period, but as of 2020/21 it has begun to increase again.

The amounts spent per person by each local authority area show broadly similar variations to those in funding – inner London boroughs spend the most per person, and shire counties and districts the least. There is a large range of spending between different local authority areas; in 2018/19, Hackney spent the most per person, at £3,005, and Leicestershire (along with the district authorities within it) the least, at £1,051. 

Spending per person has decreased in real terms in all local authority areas (combining counties and districts) since 2010/11.

Local authorities mostly spend their resources on education services and adult and children’s social care – these three areas together made up well over half of local government spending in 2018/19, much of it as part of ring-fenced grants.

Similar statistics are also available for the devolved administrations of the UK, but are not covered in depth in this briefing.

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