Political Promise

Budget Cuts: The time for talking is over

In David Brownsey-Joyce on February 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

The open letter sent by Liberal Democrat councillors to The Times last week is too little too late to change the way forward, it’s time to dig in and get on with the job of reducing the deficit, according to David Brownsey-Joyce.

Last week’s open letter to The Times by 88 Liberal Democrat councillors detailing concerns with the pace of the austerity measures and with the performance of Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, should have been posted six months ago long before the local government financial settlement was announced, instead it was posted after the Coalition Government has committed this country to what will doubtlessly be the most painful service cuts seen in a generation.

Local authorities face budget cuts of up to 27% and are now going about the painful process of making cuts to services in a way that allows them to minimise the affect on front-line services. These are not going to be popular. They are going to affect everyone in the country and in a number of cases will result in large scale job cuts.

This is the reality that we face. Local services are going to be scaled back and there is no guarantee that they will return to the levels seen under the previous Labour Government for a long time to come, as during Labour’s last rein local authorities received much better financial settlements from central government.

My personal view, that we should be spreading the length of time used to attain these cuts or just strap Trident, does not matter. This is the course the Coalition Government has set, there has been time to lobby for a different direction and that time is past, we need to accept that what our local councils get this year is all they will get.

The second point and the one that has been overlooked by a lot of the media coverage has been the perceived performance of current Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. The letter is a personal attack on a strong Conservative presence in local government, one that I’m not surprised at.

Eric Pickles has championed cuts to senior pay, abolishing of non-jobs (which are completely context dependent), abolishing or restricting council media, cutting consultants, changing employee terms & conditions, the return of weekly waste collection, and so on. He has done all of this in a very public way, so is it really a surprise that those that disagree with his ideas will retaliate in a similar fashion.

It’s not even that these individuals disagree with the Communities Secretary on all manner of issues; it’s rather the feeling that he would rather dictate to local leaders rather than work with them in pursuing effective changes in local councils.

Local government needs room to breath, for the Communities Secretary and his department to get out of the way and say ‘off you go’. To back up their ideas with resources and free them up from red tape, however this is not going to happen because it feels like Eric Pickles doesn’t trust them to deliver the results. At least that’s what the letter to The Times revealed.

This whole mess is down to a lack of trust on both sides.

PS We would have liked to have put up a link to the letter in the Times, but it is now behind a paywall. No such rubbish on Political Promise, all comment is free.



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