Cuts make a mockery of ‘localism’
Two articles in today’s newspapers show notions of ‘localism’ are being undermined by central government spending cuts.
The FT leads on an Audit Commission report ‘Tough Times’, which reveals that most councils have had to ‘reduce the quality and quantity of services’ they provide in the face of a real terms funding cut of £3.5billion over the last year. In addition to central government funding cuts, councils are faced with a £1.2bn funding squeeze driven by a loss of income and the government driven council tax freeze.
As well as the direct impact these cuts are having on vitally needed services, they are also having a perverse impact on efforts by local councils to increase economic activity.
This Guardian article highlights just one such example – the possible cancellation of Liverpool City Council’s support for the Matthew Street Festival. While on the surface it might appear that the loss of a ‘Beatles-themed festival’ isn’t all that important, its worth bearing in mind that Liverpool City Council estimates the £900,000 a year it spends on the festival generates around £17m for the local economy. Its a small illustration of the economic madness of government forcing local councils to make swingeing cuts at a time when private sector demand is so fragile. Liverpool faces cuts of £102m over the next three years.
And to top it all off, and again as Liverpool unfortunately illustrates, the Audit Commision’s report also notes that councils in the ‘deprived areas in the north, midlands and inner London saw the highest cuts’. ‘Fairness at the heart of everything we do’ seems a very long time ago.