You can’t cut council budgets for ever

CENTRAL government really has it in for local councils at the moment.

While Whitehall mandarins are struggling to come to terms with cutting their own budgets, Eric Pickles is squeezing local councils dry – presumably because he cannot hear the howls of angst in his comfortable office in Westminster.

Suffolk County Council is facing further cuts of �25 million next year and �64 million over the following two years.

That would be tough for any county council – but actually Suffolk was pretty efficient before all these cuts started.

That means the council didn’t have rolls of fat to start cutting in the first place – and it’s made further efficiency savings over the last few years.

Now with yet more money being taken away from local democracy, the Conservative deputy leader and finance spokeswoman Jane Storey is warning that people could start to notice a dip in services.

It might start to take longer for issues to be dealt with, she warned.

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You don’t need to have a particularly special crystal ball to work out that some front line services are likely to be cut – there’s already talk of putting up the cost of vital services like day centres and personal care.

What is irritating is that central government politicians can lump all the cuts on to local authorities and give the impression that they are washing their hands of the problem – a bit like Pontius Pilate.

Because while local authorities are expected to take an axe to their bureaucracy, there is considerable evidence that in Whitehall the civil service old boy network is ensuring that they are largely immune from the harsh winds of recession.

When I start hearing about large groups of senior civil servants being made redundant from the MoD, the Department of Health, and – especially – the department of Communities and Local Government, I shall start to believe they’re serious about reform!

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