Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Yet more cuts from the Coalition ...

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the massive cuts facing Cornwall Council. It is follows:

Cornwall Council is being forced to slash a total of £196 million from its budget over the next four years, even though it has already made significant cuts following the election of the Coalition in 2010.

The reason for the cuts sits squarely at the door of central government which, each year, underfunds the unitary authority by £48 million (compared to average urban authorities) and is further reducing its grant funding.

About ten days ago, I attended a briefing at County Hall about the budget pressures facing Cornwall Council. Immediately before the meeting, we were each presented with a report – prepared by the unitary authority’s governing Cabinet and senior officers – which set out a vast array of cuts and it makes very grim reading indeed.

The list of cuts – well publicised in the local media – is extremely long and would impact on each and every council department. The privatisation of some services has been suggested, along with the “devolution” of certain responsibilities to town and parish councils or other voluntary groups. Many of the suggested cuts are unpalatable, but alternative options are equally unpalatable.

Unions have estimated that the cuts could lead to the loss of 1,300 jobs and firefighters have described cuts to frontline fire cover as “dangerous,” while representatives of town and parish councils have also challenged the deliverability of certain proposals.

Coalition cuts to local government are truly disproportionate – and they are undermining the ability of councils to provide those public services that individuals, families and communities have a right to expect.

To repeat something I said last year, I honestly believe that the Coalition is continuing to slash funding to local government, because opposition from their own local councillors is not strong enough.

To be fair, many councillors from Coalition parties across the UK have repeatedly raised concerns about the extent of the cuts, but their political masters in Westminster are simply not listening.

Coalition councillors need to do more to stand up to central government or they will be complicit in the damage being impacted on to Cornwall.

If they are serious about putting pressure on their own MPs and ministers, they could send a strong message to the Coalition by walking away from their respective parties to become independent councillors or to join a party opposed to the cuts.

I truly believe that if the local government base of their parties was reduced, the Government would change direction – that is, after all, the sort of decisive political message that the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Pickles would understand.

No comments: