The Autumn Statement has announced no further cuts to local government in the next financial year, with a 2% cut the following year.
We’re grateful to Danny Alexander, Don Foster and Nick Clegg for stepping in and saying “no” to further cuts to local services over the next year – in a way we just haven’t seen from the DCLG Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
Liberal Democrat Ministers have stopped an across-the-board cut of 1% to local government next year. That means up to £240m extra that will be in council budgets every year which will help fund youth services, streets, parks, and investment in the local economy, libraries and services to vulnerable children and pensioners.
But we remain opposed to the planned 2% cut in the following year – 2014-15. This is not acceptable and Lib Dems in local government will continue to lobby further to prevent this from happening.
Rather than champion his sector and encourage it Pickles has criticised it and – as one of the first to settle the sector’s cuts with Osborne back in 2010 – has been happy to see 28% cuts to the sector plus a further £1 billion subsequently.
DCLG has been one of the worst-performing government Departments and a select committee is now doing an investigation into its performance. Its Secretary of State appears to not have a grip on the things that are urgent and in need of action – jobs, growth, and investment; and instead criticises his sector and obsesses over how quickly his chicken tikka masala remains can be collected.
I’m grateful to Liberal Democrat ministers for stepping in to protect local services – so valued by local people – from further cuts next year. Local government is the most effective sector of government – as Cameron has said. It has massive potential to help drive growth locally, which this country desperately needs right now.
* Gerald Vernon Jackson is Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association