YESTERDAY saw the Tory-led coalition finally unveil its so-called ‘Localism Bill’, which is central to its plans to make massive cuts in local government funding and sack hundreds of thousands of workers.
Behind all the flannel about ‘localism’ and devolving power to local communities there lies the simple intent of the Tories and Lib Dems to slash public spending, and return Britain to some kind of Dickensian existence where the poor, the unemployed and the elderly are treated as charity cases, as the ‘undeserving poor’.
At present, local councils receive 70 per cent of their funding from central government.
Of this 70 per cent, it has been estimated that the cuts announced yesterday will slash between 25 per cent to 35 per cent over the course of four years.
Under the guise of devolving power to local communities – a concept much venerated by Lib Dems and co-opted by the Tories as a fig leaf – what is in fact happening is that local councils will assume responsibility for administering the savage cuts and job losses.
Already, in anticipation of this long-awaited bill, councils have made it clear which services they will ditch from the outset.
Leisure services, parks and libraries are all considered as not being front-line services and already have been cut back in many authorities. Under this bill they will disappear completely unless run by volunteers or private companies out to make a quick buck.
Even the much-loved ‘lollipop’ men and women are being axed from the council payroll – in the words of one council spokesperson recently interviewed ‘it is not the job of councils to ensure the safety of children going to school’. After all what is a child’s life when compared to the necessity of keeping the banks afloat with public money.
But the coalition is going much further than ending these ‘non-essential’ services – under this bill everything is up for grabs and nothing is off limits for dumping, including housing, social services and education.
While the coalition government boasts of ‘ring fencing’ the education budget, a closer examination reveals that even here crucial elements of education spending by local authorities have been left outside the fence. The most glaring example being new school buildings. Councils will not have the liability to provide these, opening the doors for the privateers to step in looking for profit out of education.
In housing, the whole concept of localisation and decentralisation amounts to nothing more than removing the requirement for local councils to provide council housing.
Specifically, councils will no longer have the obligation to house families that are eligible, in future they can discharge their responsibility by finding them private rented accommodation for 12 months.
The role model for these plans is Tory-controlled Suffolk council, which has announced its intention to outsource all local services to private companies, charities and volunteers.
This is the coalition’s government for Britain in the 21st century: all social and welfare services to be owned and run locally by profit-hungry companies or replaced by charities and volunteers.
This move, being portrayed as somehow progressive, is in reality an attempt to turn the clock back to the 19th century with its local ‘poor laws’ and workhouses.
This was when social provision for the sick, the young and elderly, the poor and needy was at the whim of philanthropists and do-gooders and not a basic human right.
The working class will not accept being driven back to this.
Workers will demand that their organisations, the unions that fought bitter struggles throughout the 19th and 20th century to end these abominable conditions, fight to defend the gains of the welfare state.
Leaders who refuse to carry out this task will be removed and replaced by revolutionary leaderships that are prepared to call a general strike to bring down this government and go forward to a workers government through a socialist revolution.
This will consign capitalism, its workhouses and privateer gangmasters into the dustbin of history.