Coalition Policy Is To Financially Collapse Local Authorities

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THE House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned that ‘multiple’ local authorities are facing financial collapse due to government spending cuts.

The PAC said ministers ought to be drawing up contingency plans to cope with councils in difficulty.

In fact, ministers are deliberately destroying services and hundreds of thousands of local authority jobs, as part of their programme to save the crisis-ridden, out-of-date capitalist system by destroying the lives of the working class and the middle class.

The committee warned that many authorities, often in poor areas, will be unable to meet their statutory legal requirements because of coalition policy.

In fact, the central government grant to local authorities is being cut by £7.6bn – or 26% – in real terms between 2011 and 2015, as part of the effort to reduce the budget deficit by destroying the services that authorities provide.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the Committee chairwoman, pointed out the uneven distribution of the cuts which sees some authorities having the cash that they spend on services reduced by 1% in 2012-13 while others have a maximum 9% cut!

Hodge commented: ‘The more grant-dependent local authorities are suffering the highest reductions in spending power. But these are the very councils which serve poorer and more vulnerable communities whose need for services is the greatest.

‘This raises the spectre of the worst-affected councils being unable to meet their statutory obligations.’

The committee also commented that the plans to let councils keep some of the business rates they collect would only affect those in commercially successful areas, adding to the class division as far as the cuts are concerned.

The committee stated that some authorities had already become financially unsustainable and cited the example of West Somerset Council, recently deemed ‘not viable’ by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Hodge concluded: ‘There needs to be frank and open dialogue between central and local government and the public on just what services councils will be expected to provide in a prolonged period of declining funding.’

However, this crisis will not be resolved by dialogue!

On May 9th, the LGA warned that millions of people face losing libraries, sports centres and museums, and that potholes could go unfilled and street lights could be switched off, with funding for some services down by 90%.

It warned the government against making more reductions in the 2015-16 public spending review. The LGA continued, that a 10% funding cut to county councils and unitary authorities in England in 2015-16 would mean reducing spending on a ‘broad combination of non-statutory services which might include children’s centres, museums, libraries and sports centres, as well as reduce road maintenance budgets, increase bus fares and switch off streetlights between midnight and dawn’.

These warnings were dismissed by the government as being ‘shrill and alarmist’.

Now we are posed with cuts in statutory services that the local authorities are legally bound to provide as they begin to collapse.

Social services, such as pre-hospital care for the elderly and infirm, or early intervention services for troubled children and their families, waste collection and concessionary travel, are under immediate threat.

The answer to this crisis is not an attempted dialogue with a government that is determined not to listen.

The trade unions must take action to defend the vital services that are being wound up along with up to one million jobs. The only answer that is adequate for the situation is that the unions call a general strike to bring down the coalition government and bring in a workers’ government and socialism.