The Hidden Damage

I heard a report from some of our local city and country councillors last week.

Being more interested in the national picture, I hadn’t really processed what was going on locally. I knew the local government budgets were being slashed – but so were all budgets. Weren’t they?

This table shows the depth of cuts in different areas.

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According to the Guardian, councils in the 10 most deprived areas of England are facing cuts averaging 25.3% in the financial years 2010-11 to 2015-16, compared with 2.54% in the 10 least deprived areas.

Liverpool city council, with the highest deprivation score of 43.45, is suffering cuts of 27.1%. Hart district council, with the lowest deprivation score of 4.47, is facing cuts of 1.5%.

And yet, central government continues to blame local authorities for weak service provision and load local councils with responsibility to clear up problems caused by central government policy. (The woefully inadequate hardship fund is provided so councils can sort out problems caused by the spare room subsidy.)

Central government is not just reducing funding for local authorities – they are restricting the ability of councils to raise their own funds. Not just by compulsary council tax freeze, but by slyer methods: the recent 20% discount for first time house buyers is partly paid for by central government waiving a payment due to local authorities owed by building companies.

Even the Conservative heartlands are struggling and starting to rebel. The Telegraph quotes Martin Tett, the Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire Council:
“The vast majority of our expenditure is on the high-growth, high-cost areas of providing school places for a rapidly growing population, providing for our increasing numbers of the elderly and, in particular, safeguarding children.”
So when you read in the news today that incomes are back to pre-crisis levels, you might want to put the champagne bottles back in the cupboard for a while yet.
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