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Local government: from the pragmatic to the apocalyptic

By michaelward, Dec 7 2012 11:39AM

Local government: from the pragmatic to the apocalyptic


The Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, commenting on the Autumn Statement, has warned that public services face ‘inconceivable’ cuts. Paul Johnson said on 6 December:


“Roll forward to 2017-18, and if the NHS and schools continue to be protected, and no more welfare cuts or tax rises are found, then these unprotected spending areas – police, local government, defence, environment, transport – face cumulative real terms cuts of 16% in the three years to 2017-18, or cuts of nearly a third since 2010.

That begins to look close to inconceivable. Further welfare cuts and tax rises must be on the cards. £27 billion worth would be required to protect other spending in real terms.”


Local government has responded to the cuts since 2010 in pragmatic ways. Jobs have been cut, back offices have been merged, efficiencies have been identified and implemented. But these actions were taken as part of a strategy to keep services going. Local government, like their counterparts in Whitehall, assumed that growth would come back, tax receipts would begin to rise again, and services would carry on.

It is now becoming clear that normal service is not about to be resumed. Austerity is scheduled to continue until 2017-18. Many services, and even some councils, will not survive the storm.

In the last few days:

• Newcastle City Council has announced proposals to completely cut funding for major cultural institutions in the city; (http://www.newcastle.gov.uk/sites/drupalncc.newcastle.gov.uk/files/wwwfileroot/your-council/budget_and_annual_report/budget_2016_-_14_reduction_in_financial_support_for_the_indpendent_cultural_sector_in_the_city.pdf)

• Sheffield City Council’s Leader has announced that: “Another three years of austerity…. will mean the end of the council as we know it. To have another three years of cuts will cause the whole social infrastructure we have to collapse and services will go.” (http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/business/the-end-of-sheffield-council-as-we-know-it-1-5199684)

• West Somerset District Council has announced that it faces an unbridgeable budget gap, and that it will have to become a ‘virtual’ authority, providing no services at all itself, with everything contracted out to other public or private sector agencies.

(http://www.lgcplus.com/finance/west-somerset-to-become-virtual authority/)


Michael Ward

7 December 2012





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