It must have been 10 no 12 years ago. My boss, the Director of
social services returned from a budget meeting with the chief
executive. We were expecting bad news, more budget cuts to plan for,
uncomfortable meetings with service users and the challenge of
motivating inevitably demoralised staff. We were use to demands to
make 2% efficiency savings and delivering 3%/5% budget savings so we
thought we knew what was coming. Instead of telling me what what the
budget position would be next year or over the next 3 years he said.
The chief exec and the leader believe the the authorities budget will
be cut by two thirds over the next 10 years. This isn’t about making
budget savings or changing the way services are delivered this is a
fundamental change in the what a local authority does. I admit I just
couldn’t image what a social service or a LA would look like if the
budget was cut by two thirds. I didn’t think it would be possible and
in any case people wouldn’t stand for it. After all look at all the
anger, hostile press and judicial reviews resulting from the proposals
to close a couple of the LA run old people’s homes or a day centre for
people with learning disabilities.
And yet here we are today after 10 years of an austerity policy
that has seen LA budgets cut by two thirds. It turns out that the
bigger the cut the less people complain! The longer the pain and
suffering continues the more it is seen as normal. But most surprising
of all there is very little questioning of the need for an austerity
policy and it seems to go unremarked that this is the governments doing.
I heard the PM say recently austerity was over! Yet the budget
cuts continue. Austerity clearly is now the norm in local government.
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk