‘Local government is officially the most efficient part of the public sector’. David Cameron said so in a speech – three speeches actually – before the General Election. Here’s where it gets confusing. When the Tories announced their programme of cuts, Communities and Local Government faced not just a large cut but the single largest cut of any area of Government. That’s an odd way to make ‘efficiency’ savings, but it doesn’t end there.
In the hubbub before Christmas the Government decided to bury bad news and issue the incredibly late Local Government Finance Settlement, outlining how much councils will have available to spend on services. While the Government’s creative accountancy has let them claim we face a reduction of only 1.3%, the reality is that Crawley faces a cut to local services of almost 10%.
Let’s put aside economic, moral and social arguments and just focus on the issue of efficiency for a moment, in other words getting the most for our money out of government. Cuts to the most efficient part of government will, logically, be the cuts most likely to harm services. In this case directly reducing spending on maintaining roads, providing housing, running schools, dealing with waste, providing social services, etc. Hold on, we still haven’t got to the bad part.
What’s grotesque is that at the same time as implementing ‘necessary’ cuts the Tories have been splashing out on a range of expensive and unnecessary policies. Elected Police Commissioners – opposed by the police, changes to schools – opposed by teachers, NHS reforms opposed by just about everyone and a new tax break for millionaires. The bill of these policies is huge and you’re paying for it through cuts to your services.
During his seven years running West Sussex our MP complained annually about the size of the increase in his council’s budget, not once arguing the Government should keep its spending down. Yet when Crawley is facing massive service cuts he remains silent on the issue, all local Tories are. With the first councils issuing bankruptcy warnings we know things can’t go on like this, it’s time someone stood up for the town.