|The News Line: Editorial
Thursday, 2 August 2018
Commissioners will slash and burn local services!
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE Tory County Council has imposed emergency spending controls twice in the last six months and is now in a ‘truly perilous state’, having to impose ‘unprecedented cuts’ to save £70 million by next March.
These ‘completely unprecedented’ cuts will force the Tory Council to break all legal duties. It will have to decide what it can ‘realistically provide’. Council leader Matthew Golby has said they will try to ‘safeguard all children and young people’ while ensuring a ‘robust safeguarding system to protect vulnerable adults’.
Local residents respond that since he is about to pull the plug on their jobs and services and their children’s welfare his assurances are worth zero. In fact, local people know that the scale of the cuts is huge. One of the two government-appointed Commissioners, Brian Roberts, has already said that the council’s finances are in a ‘truly perilous state’ following a section 114 notice issued last week, severely curtailing spending. It is to be cut after cut after cut!
Roberts has made this clear stating that ‘To put itself on a secure financial footing, very difficult decisions will need to be taken. It is clear the time for these decisions is now.’ These huge cuts will have to be imposed on a resisting population who are determined not to let their living conditions be destroyed.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy has now warned that Northampton Council is not on its own and that as many as 20 councils will have to take a massive axe to their communities and their services. Its chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said last month: ‘The National Audit Office’s most recent financial sustainability report points out that 10% of upper-tier authorities are similarly vulnerable to financial failure. ‘That could be more than 20 councils at risk along with the essential services for several million citizens.’
Northampton Council will by today have decided on exactly what draconian measures it is going to impose on the local population. The councillors have already been accused of ‘knowingly adopting unachievable savings’ in 2017-18.
Executive director of finance Mark McLaughlin sent a letter to members of the county council accusing the council of having ‘knowingly adopted unachievable savings as part of the budget’ in 2017-18 and assumed a future review would provide ‘fairer funding’ for the council. McLaughlin writes he is however ‘not able to offer remedies’. The government is going to let them drown in debt! He says the future is grim and that the forecast for the 2019-20 budget is ‘equally stark’ with a further £54m of savings needed.
The letter adds that with ‘no immediate remedy’ available, the section 114 notice was likely to remain ‘in place for the foreseeable future’ and that legal advice was being sought on the ‘legality of the council’s ongoing situation’, with the prospect that the council will be closed down and replaced by Government Commissioners.
Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne MP has commented: ‘Northamptonshire is a perfect storm of local mismanagement and the crushing pressures of austerity.’ He saw the Commissioner’s point of view and stressed, ‘Commissioners will have no option but to slash and burn local services but it’s the people of Northamptonshire that will be forced to pay the price for this neglect.’
There is now going to be an offensive to smash all council services in order to try to balance the books of a crisis-ridden Tory government. Councils must refuse to make the savage cuts that the Commissioners will be demanding. There is only one way out of this developing crisis for local jobs and services of all kinds, from children’s to pensioners’. The local trade unions must intervene to set up a Council of Action to defy the government and keep the services going.
Nationally, the TUC Congress is to meet in early September. It must be lobbied by thousands of workers and made to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism.
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