Map reveals how much debt your local council is in

Local elections take place across 107 councils in England on Thursday against a backdrop of financial disarray.

Birmingham City Council Town Hall building in Victoria Square on 17th April 2024 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Birmingham City Council is set to approve devastating council cuts, which currently stand to be approximately £376m to services which is likely to have a major impact on residents. Those areas cited as to be subject to cuts include youth services, transport, refuse collection, libraries and arts organisations. The Labour-run council has had long-standing financial issues due to equal pay compensation claims where women were paid less than men on the same pay grade and the implementat
Birmingham City Council is in the midst of a financial crisis. (PA)

As people prepare to cast their ballot in the local elections on Thursday, many will do so voting for councillors who, once elected, will have to grapple with managing in many instances a desperate financial situation.

Local authorities are in the grip of a funding crisis of an unprecedented scale, with attempts at savings inevitably passed on to their communities.

The lack of funding is the most prominent issue for many voters ahead of local elections in England later this week.

Yahoo News UK examines the state of the country's councils as the people go to the polls.

Voters will go to the polls on Thursday, 2 May.

Local elections are taking place across 107 councils in England, including 58 district councils, 31 metropolitan boroughs and 18 unitary councils, with 2,636 seats available.

Watch: Local elections 2024– when and where and who can vote?

There are also elections for police and crime commissioners across England and Wales, and combined authority elections for Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley and the West Midlands, and the Greater London Authority mayoral and assembly elections.

"The local government sector in England is increasingly in a state of financial crisis." That was the stark view given by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) in its hard-hitting report, the State of Local Government Finance in England 2024, published at the end of February.

Its survey of councils across England revealed that more than half of them (51%) said they were likely to declare "effective bankruptcy" in the next five years, with 9% predicting it would happen as soon as the next financial year.

The survey also revealed that more than half of councils drew on their financial reserves in the past year, 2023-2024, and plan to draw on them again in this new financial year.

Only 4% of council leaders said they felt confident about the sustainability of local government finance, a drop from 14% the previous year and 20.5% in 2020.

You can see how badly your local area is affected below.

Councils have been hit with a perfect storm of financial factors that have caused debt to spiral in recent years.

Firstly, the rise in inflation, which hit a 40-year high in 2022, drove up costs for councils, although the rate has since come down.

Nine out of 10 councils said inflation and the cost of living crisis have caused major financial problems.

Put simply, higher inflation makes everything more expensive, while the cost of living crisis meant councils had to deliver more services to the most vulnerable.

Most of the money councils do have is being spent on adult and children social care, while housing, homelessness, environment and waste are also causing budget squeezes.

To combat the financial constraints, nine out of 10 councils are raising council tax as well as increasing charges and fees.

A number of councils have declared "effective bankruptcy", which is a slightly misleading term, in that councils cannot technically go bankrupt the way businesses or individuals can.

But what crisis-hit councils can do is issue what's called a section 114 notice, which means they cannot commit to any new spending and must come up with a new budget within 21 days.

This usually means huge cuts to frontline services and has an adverse impact on its residents.

Up until recently, section 114 notices were extremely rare, with Northampton Council Council in 2018 the first to do issue one for 20 years.

However, since then, Slough, Croydon and Thurrock have all issued notices, with Woking, Birmingham City and Nottingham City councils following suit in 2023.

In January, BBC analysis of figures from the Commons public accounts committee showed that UK councils owed almost £100bn to lenders, the equivalent of about £1,400 per person.

The largest average debt per resident was in Woking Borough Council in Surrey at almost £19,000.

Spelthorne Borough Council, also in Surrey, had the next highest debt with more than £10,000 per resident.

In March, Birmingham City Council approved a 9.99% rise in council tax and a budget containing plans for “unprecedented” cuts to services.

Councillors were told £300m of cuts over two years, including to library services, were needed to secure £1.255bn in exceptional financial support loans from central government.