Hats off to John Gilbey for his pre-autumn statement call for George Osborne to spare local government further spending cuts and to devolve greater powers to local authorities. As he rightly said: “There’s no question about it – if they keep cutting money to local authorities, services.. .will be cut.”
It’s not likely to be spared, though, is it? Indeed, Osborne has said that future savings would be delivered through “very substantial savings in public spending”. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has said that government plans to balance the books in the next parliament would see even deeper cuts in public spending, that a big slice of those cuts could fall on local government, public services and welfare and that the plans would see public spending, as a proportion of GDP, fall to its lowest level since the 1930s, possibly involving the loss of a million public-sector jobs by 2020. We already know the effects of previous cuts to services and welfare in Kent because a KCC report (later suppressed) told us of increased homelessness; sharp increases in numbers, including children, dependent on food banks; and rising crime rates in some of our poorest communities [‘Welfare reform linked to rising poverty and crime,’ Kentish Gazette, December 6].
Adult and children’s social care, libraries, fixing potholes, rubbish collection and parks are all among those services provided by local government. Many of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities depend on them. As far as we can see, the best chance of being spared further deep spending cuts to local authorities and an evisceration of their powers and responsibilities would be to vote against it at the next election.
Russell Page, Canterbury and District Green Party
Herne Bay Gazette, December 11th 2014