THE cuts to local government funding will ‘push councils to breaking point’ according to council leaders.
On Thursday the Tory Communities and Local Government minister, Kris Hopkins, announced a package of cuts for 2015-16 which he described as ‘fair’ but which has got even the normally loyal councils in the Tory shires up in arms.
What Hopkins calls ‘fair’ are cuts that could be as much as 6.4% for some councils, according to him, but which the Local Government Association (which represents councils) calculates to be an average 8.8% cut next year – £2.6 billion in cash.
Birmingham – the largest local authority in the UK – is facing cuts next year of £117m and similar savings each year until 2018, while Liverpool will have lost more than half its government grant by 2017.
While councils in the poorest parts of the country have been hammered with the biggest cuts, the latest round has begun to worry even Tory-run councils in the heartland shire counties.
Since 2010, councils have had a 40% cut in government funding.
The scale of the cuts means that Tory councils can no longer pretend to voters that they will not have a catastrophic effect on every council service.
In the words of the LGA chairman, David Sparks, ‘We cannot pretend that this will not have an impact on local government’s ability to improve people’s quality of life and support local businesses.’ He added, ‘It is individuals who have paid the price of funding reductions, whether it is through seeing their local library close, roads deteriorate or support for young people and families scaled back.’
This does not cover even a fraction of the human cost that will result from these cuts – cuts inflicted by the drive of the government to cut its budget deficit at the expense of the working class.
The cuts will not just affect road repairs and the library service but will have a disastrous impact on core council services such as child protection, women’s refuges and care for the elderly – services that are demanding more and more resources not less. All these face not just cuts but complete closure under the Tory plans.
Not that the Tories and their LibDem partners give a hoot about such inconsequentialities like child protection – their only concern is to keep the banks from collapsing.
Their priorities have never been clearer than in the decision to end central government funding for local welfare assistance schemes.
£180 million of central funding has been available to local councils for emergency assistance to the most vulnerable people who fall into a crisis situation.
Single parents, women escaping from domestic violence, the homeless, the elderly, the sick and disabled, who are all vulnerable to falling into desperate situations, have been able to get crisis help from councils from this fund.
The ending of this fund spells disaster for these people.
As Andy Hull, a finance director at Islington Council, put it, this cut gives ‘an early Christmas present from the government for loan sharks and payday lenders’.
What these cuts mean if they are implemented is not just a radical change for local councils but the complete destruction of every single service from libraries to ‘lollipop ladies’ right through to welfare provision for the entire community.
Councils will be forced into bankruptcy in much the same way as the US city of Detroit was declared bankrupt with every municipal worker having their pay and pensions cut, services just shut down and citizens of the city left to literally starve on the streets.
This is the future that a bankrupt capitalist system is attempting to force onto workers as the price demanded by the crisis of capitalism.
These cuts can only be prevented and defeated by bringing down the coalition by demanding that the TUC call an immediate indefinite general strike to bring the government down and replace it with a workers government and a socialist system, run for the benefit of working people and not for the benefit of the bankers.