Inequalities in local government spending on cultural, environmental and planning services: a time-trend analysis in England, Scotland, and Wales

Fahy, Katie, Alexiou, Alexandros ORCID: 0000-0003-3533-3238, Mason, Kate, Bennett, Davara, Egan, Matt, Taylor-Robinson, David ORCID: 0000-0002-5828-7724 and Barr, Ben ORCID: 0000-0002-4208-9475
(2023) Inequalities in local government spending on cultural, environmental and planning services: a time-trend analysis in England, Scotland, and Wales. BMC Public Health, 23 (1). 408-.

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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:sec> <jats:title>Background</jats:title> <jats:p>Local government provides Cultural, Environmental, and Planning (CEP) services, such as parks, libraries, and waste collection, that are vital for promoting health and wellbeing. There have been significant changes to the funding of these services over the past decade, most notably due to the UK government’s austerity programme. These changes have not affected all places equally. To understand potential impacts on health inequalities, we investigated geographical patterning of recent CEP spending trends.</jats:p> </jats:sec><jats:sec> <jats:title>Methods</jats:title> <jats:p>We conducted a time trend analysis using routinely available data on local government expenditure. We used generalised estimating equations to determine how expenditure trends varied across 378 local authorities (LAs) in Great Britain between 2009/10 and 2018/19 on the basis of country, deprivation, rurality, and local government structure. We investigated the gross expenditure per capita on CEP services, and the CEP expenditure as a proportion of total local authority budgets. We present the estimated annual percentage change in these spend measures.</jats:p> </jats:sec><jats:sec> <jats:title>Results</jats:title> <jats:p>Expenditure per capita for CEP services reduced by 36% between 2009/10 and 2018/19. In England, the reduction in per capita spending was steepest in the most deprived quintile of areas, falling by 7.5% [95% CI: 6.0, 8.9] per year, compared to 4.5% [95% CI: 3.3, 5.6] per year in the least deprived quintile. Budget cuts in Scotland and Wales have been more equitable, with similar trends in the most and least deprived areas. Welsh LAs have reduced the proportion of total LA budget spent on CEP services the most (-4.0% per year, 95% CI: -5.0 to -2.9), followed by Scotland (-3.0% per year, 95% CI: -4.2 to -1.7) then England (-1.4% per year, 95% CI: -2.2 to -0.6). In England, rural and unitary LAs reduced their share of spending allocated to CEP more than urban and two-tier structured LAs, respectively.</jats:p> </jats:sec><jats:sec> <jats:title>Conclusion</jats:title> <jats:p>Funding for cultural, environmental and planning services provided by local government in the UK has been cut dramatically over the last decade, with clear geographical inequalities. Local areas worst affected have been those with a higher baseline level of deprivation, those with a single-tier local government structure, and English rural local authorities. The inequalities in cuts to these services risk widening geographical inequalities in health and wellbeing.</jats:p> </jats:sec>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Health inequality, Local government, Austerity, Culture, Environmental health, Planning
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2023 12:21
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2023 21:27
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-023-15179-9
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