Passing the buck for the cuts

George Osborne, and the Tory Party for that matter, are lucky so and so’s – even jammy, as they used to say where I come from. The goings on in Parliament yesterday illustrate perfectly why the government can make itself virtuous by not doing what it said it would only a few weeks ago. Not only are Tax Credits safe for the time being (although how long we the tax payers should continue to subsidise employers is debatable); but also Police Budgets are to be protected, thanks to the £27bn the Chancellor has suddenly found from somewhere.

We can speculate about the wheels eventually coming off the Tory wagon; but don’t hold your breath. Even with a slim majority it is unlikely that there will be enough by elections between now and 2020 for the balance of power to shift decisively, and, in any case, at 42% in one recent opinion poll, it’s unlikely the Tories will lose the plot.

What worries me more is how local government is going to cope with the cuts still to come its way over the next five years unless another non U turn might be in the pipeline. My authority, which has responsibility for Adult Social Care, can now, in theory, raise its portion of the Council Tax by 3.99% without the need for a referendum. That increase works out at about 83p per week for a Band D property in Lincolnshire and would raise around £9 million of which around £4 million would be ring fenced for Adult Social Care. However, as government grants will continue to be reduced that means that, as far as my county is concerned, things will, at best, more or less stand still.

We function here very much as a commissioning organisation, having no care homes of our own and an ever decreasing number of Day Centres. Like care homes, majority of our Day Centres are run privately, by a mixture of charitable bodies and private business. Getting care providers at a price we can afford to pay is also causing problems.

Add to that all the other cuts that we have had to make since 2010 and it makes me wonder whether we shall have any meaningful local government services left by the end of the decade. The Prime Minister’s leaked letter to his local Council Leader and the latter’s response illustrate perfectly the former’s ignorance as to how local government actually works and the latter’s despair about his master’s apparent ingratitude for the sacrifices he and his Tory majority Councillors have made to do his bidding.

The cynics might say that the Chancellor’s current moves are a further attempt to shift the blame for cuts from Central to Local Government. Surely he couldn’t be as beastly as that, could he?!

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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3 Comments

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Nov '15 - 11:44am

    Yes he could.

  • PHIL THOMAS 27th Nov '15 - 1:23pm

    Another Tory gain from the Lib Dems in yesterdays by-elections. No progress being made under Tim ?

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