Bins and lights – that sums up the Local Community Minister’s attitude to the public sector. So long as the first are emptied and the second are on Eric Pickles is a happy man.
He doesn’t want local councils to be running huge self-promoting media campaigns, which is fair enough. However under his wish-list many more services would be stripped from councils’ list of responsibilities leaving a question mark over arts, sports and events that many local authorities currently promote.
The logic behind the argument is that councils are there to do the bare minimum and all non-essential activities are a waste of money – and crucially that money is made up of tax-payers’ hard earned pounds. So the argument goes that cutting services will save the country money – hurray, no more deficit (apart from the one we have always had – http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2010/06/spending-cuts-canada-deficit).
The problem is most councils are going to salami slice across the board rather than completely stop providing councillors’ pet projects or the type of non-services that middle class voters love like libraries, arts festivals and parks. In turn, that means essential services for the most vulnerable will inevitably see funding cuts.
Unfortunately in a time when more and more people are joining the squeezed middle the Government is increasingly going to have to deliver the Lion’s share of local authority funding.
It is not just individuals who will be squeezed – local services are also going to be squeezed. And that means politicians are going to try to cut budgets without anyone
who votes noticing.
Salami slicing will see the most vulnerable suffer while the more affluent in society barely notice any change. Fears over library closures will prompt them to take the kids to a Save our Books campaign one Saturday morning, but the reality is they are all hooked up to Broadband at home and so don’t actually use the library. They won’t notice that although the library has remained open it is only stocked with second hand Jeffrey Archer novels.
The people who will notice salami slicing are the ones who rely on social care who see 20 per cent wiped off the budget for their services.
Still at least the lights are on
until midnight and the bins are emptied every fortnight or three weeks.