Monday, 1 March 2010

Squeeze on councils could force change

First, forget the daft figure for job cuts nationally (25,000) projected by the BBC local radio survey. This figure is so conservative it's misleading. There are about 300 councils in the UK. My local council employs around 10,000 staff, but London boroughs are quite big. Second, forget the scare stories; Lewisham must have an annual churn of 10%, through retirements and voluntary leavers, so very large savings can be made by natural wastage. Even if all 300 councils didn't replace 500 staff each, that's a reduction of 150,000 staff nationally.

The catalyst for change is not the overall reduction, but where the reductions will fall. The Children's departments that run schools and child social services will remain fully staffed - that's £67m a year here. If Cameron gets in, and Lewisham retains a Labour majority, have no doubt that Steve Bollock will cut everything valued by ordinary voters; libraries, parks, streets, litter and refuse, street lights and leisure centres. He will want to blame the pain on the Conservatives. A few unburied paupers earns mega column inches in the local papers.

However, there is a growing feeling of a greater right of involvement by local people in such decisions. And there's FOI. And there's the sharp elbows of the articulate, web-savvy middle class. And a browse through the budget book suggests there's still plenty of healthy-walking-advisor fat to be cut.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Did you hear Denham on Today this morning, saying that there should be no cuts to front line services until back office efficiency savings had been made.

That struck terror in my heart, for that is how they will push through the mergers necessary to get large unitary authorities and Regional Assembly government implemented. And do it without any necessity to consult the people.

If one has a pro-EU agenda, one should never let a good crisis go to waste.

Budgie said...

In Coventry in the 1970s the Labour council closed the war memorial park children's paddling pool in response to (Labour) government cuts. This will get exceeding bitter as the apparatchiks fight to save their gravy train.