MY council tax bill dropped on the doormat this morning. It’s gone up again which is no surprise to anyone.

However, this arrival has coincided with the publishing of the latest National Audit Office (NAO) report of the scale of the cash crisis facing councils in England which gives much food for thought.

The independent NAO reports that 94 per cent of councils expect to cut spending over the financial year in order to meet legal duties to balance their budgets. That includes all North-East councils. One council, Croydon, has gone bust, seven more have asked for government bailouts, 25 are at high risk of failure and a further 92 at medium risk of insolvency.

The NAO makes clear that a decade of austerity for local government which has seen councils’ spending power reduced by a third at a time when demand for services has soared, has left local authorities more vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic. Also, grand, long-standing government plans to reform local government and social care funding have failed to materialise.

The NAO urges the Government to now draw up a long term plan for councils to help them recover from the ‘financial scarring’ caused by the pandemic and live up to the promise early in the pandemic to ‘do whatever is necessary’ to support councils. Let us hope this does not fall on more deaf ears.

D Duell, Durham.