How much will the cuts really hurt us?

WITH all the talk about cuts to public spending, it’s difficult sometimes to escape the feeling that we are living at the end of time.

To hear Eric Pickles at the Department for Local Government and Communities, you might think that the welfare state is going to be completely dissolved and no council is going to have any money to do anything.

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg standing in for the Prime Minister has been trying (somewhat unconvincingly) to persuade us that things aren’t going to be as bad as we fear.

Of course, as with all things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle – and I’ve been trying to work out how things are likely to change for all of us over the next few years.

The cuts are bound to have a major effect on many people’s lives – there will be less money available to be spent on council services and residents will notice that change.

However, looking back to previous years it is clear how much more is spent and how much more is done by various authorities than was say a decade ago.

When I looked at the impact on police numbers of changes that had been described as the “worst case” by the current chief constable, I saw that the total number of staff – if those cuts were implemented– would still be substantially more than were employed in 2001.

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I haven’t yet done a similar study of numbers in local authorities and other public bodies, but I would not be surprised to find the same story.

However, that is not to say that the new services being offered are not highly valued and worth fighting for – and while some council services may be considered “worthy” rather than “essential” that is no reason to cut them.

In Ipswich a considerable amount of the council’s budget is spent on services that may not be considered as essential – but it would be a sad day if they were lost. Can you imagine the town without the Regent Theatre? Would Ipswich be the same without Christchurch Park and Mansion?

These services might not be considered as important by civil servants in London, but to the people of this area they are part of the fabric of life.

And that is what worries me about the government’s cost-cutting – that civil servants won’t pay any heed to local conditions – they’ll say Ipswich is East Anglia which is a prosperous region so they don’t need as much money, without looking at the fact that there are areas of deprivation in the town.

And the fact is that we’ve moved forward from the days of 1990 or even 2000. We expect more from society and will complain when we lose out.

Anyone who tries to take away “new” services that are valued by the public cannot expect to be popular.

We may look back fondly on earlier times, but most of us would not like to return to an era when our rates paid for the bare minimum of services.

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