COUNCILS in England face a 10% cut in funding from central government as part of the coalition’s spending plans for 2015/16. As well, there will be a major breach of health budget ring-fencing.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has already accepted in principle that his £21bn budget will be reduced by £2.1bn, by 10%, meaning a huge destruction of council services, the mass sackings of public sector workers and privatisations, with libraries and a whole host of public amenities closing down or being handed over to unpaid volunteers.
In fact, the Treasury is pressing Pickles to agree to an 11% cut in his £21bn budget, with the final figure being revealed in the spending review announcement next Wednesday. What will be new in the announcement is that part of the change is that Pickles will be taking responsibility for the work of other departments, and a part of their budget said to be up to £3bn, and will have control over that budget.
At the moment, councils already get funding from other government departments to pay for road improvements and public health in the community.
The new proposals mean that Education and Welfare departments dealing with, what the government terms to be, ‘troubled families’ are to come under Pickles’ responsibility as well as a portion of their budget. He will then be able to make savings (savage cuts) in areas where spending currently overlaps between departments, meaning that health and welfare spending will have its ring-fencing destroyed and be open to cut, after cut, after cut.
Councils already get funding from other parts of government to pay for things like road improvements and public health. Under the proposed deal, Pickles would have greater control over budgets like this and be able to make savings in areas where spending currently overlaps. It will mean some health spending would be removed from the so-called ring-fence and no longer protected from cuts.
‘The wire-cutters are well and truly out,’ said one advocate of the change, meaning that ring-fencing from budget cuts will soon be history if the coalition has its way.
Pickles has already met Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander to agree the final details of the changes.
Last month, the Local Government Association estimated that a 10% cut in spending would mean an average council having to find another £30m of savings on top of existing cuts.
In order to achieve that cut, it would have to reduce spending on a broad combination of non-statutory services which might include children’s centres, museums and sports centres, as well as reduce road maintenance budgets, increase bus fares and switch off street lights between midnight and dawn, the LGA said.
Now under the new spending arrangements, while the privateers snatch away the parts of the Welfare State they can privatise to make profits, the councils will be taking over a savagely cut version of care in the community as far as the young, the disabled and the elderly are concerned.
What is clear is that, as the financial crisis deepens, it is becoming more and more necessary for the coalition to wind up the Welfare State and destroy all of its amenities, whatever the consequences for society.
The trade unions must not stand idly by and just watch this destruction unfold, as the ruling classes decide that since they can no longer tolerate and afford the Welfare State it is to be destroyed.
The TUC and the trade unions must not accept a single cut.
They must not only march and protest, they must call a general strike and bring the reactionary coalition down.
The only way to maintain, defend and develop the Welfare State is through carrying out a socialist revolution!