Thursday, 10 February 2011

A little honesty on the cuts, please

The complaints by 90 leading Liberal Democrat councillors about the impact of the local government cuts give the lie to claims by the unpleasant Eric Pickles and his team of local government ministers that councils could achieve all the necessary savings painlessly (at least for 'frontline services'). It is impossible for coalition ministers to treat these claims in the same way as they airily dismissed announcements from Manchester City Council about its cuts.

Of course, there are some savings to be made by small London councils merging services like education (it used to happen in something called the ILEA) and schools may be able to merge administrative functions. But the blunt reality is that there will still be job losses - often at the front line - and cuts in everything from Sure Start to libraries. It is as fatuous for Pickles and others to claim that everything would be all right if only council chief execs cut their pay or their middle managers were named and shamed in local papers for earning £60k a year, as it is to imagine that a bit of ritual stake-burning for bank bosses will restore our national fortunes.

What we require is a little honesty here. Of course that applies to the opposition too. In truth, local government would have been a prime target for cuts by Labour if it was in power, though one might have hoped that the stealth cuts to schools - £250k on a £6m budget is typical - might have been avoided with a less frenzied frontloading of the savings, especially the short-sighted axing of most formula capital.

However, the coalition cuts are made all the worse at the frontline by the pretence that that they either aren't happening or aren't needed. Such duplicity can only cause real outrage when the reality hits home. The coalition's austerity drive would have far more credibility if they stopped playing the silly game they tried in opposition of suggesting that the biggest cuts in nearly a century could be achieved painlessly. If the government want us 'all to be in this together' in sharing the pain, they need to be honest about where it will hurt. And they should stop blaming those they have forced to implement the cuts for getting on with their job.

A little honesty might work wonders for the government's rapidly dwindling reputation.


Peter Walker said...

Judging from the comments of Government minister's and the reaction of those Councillors who have to deliver the coalition,s savings I feel bound to say that there are lies, damned lies and "Tory/Lib.Dem. Spin". This may well fool some but it will in no way fool those who's services will be cut

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new from Eric Pickles, he has always been less than honest about the effects of funding cuts all the way from Wandsworth to Westminster. More importantly these cuts are so draconian that they effectively undermine everything the government has said about the Big Society. How are you going to train the 5,000 community volunteer leaders at the forfront of this policy when LAs will have no training budget left ?

Anonymous said...

When has Eric Pickles been honest about his agenda? Even in his Wandsworth days he was in denial about the damage he did and the vulnerable he left stranded. It is of absolutely no consequence to him that schools, Sure Start and Libraries will be hit or that services to the vulnerable will be wiped out. Why the surprise, he has the track record!