Osborne’s new austerity will force local government beyond breaking point

by Kieran Quinn

December the 12th is one of my favourite days of the year: I attend the pensioner Christmas party in my ward. It’s an opportunity to mark the contribution that many of our senior citizens have made to Tameside in Greater Manchester. It also gives people the chance to celebrate and socialise with other Tameside pensioners.

With further austerity measures being levelled on local government over the next few years, I fear for the future of events like these, and services that residents have taken for granted.

£142 million will have been taken from our budget by 2017, we are currently consulting on the £38 million of cuts imposed upon our borough over the next two years, and we are now at a tipping point. Put simply, with half of our budget taken away we simply cannot fund the same level of services, and our workforce has halved so far. We are beyond the approach of doing more for less, despite a hardworking, innovative and dedicated workforce.

As the 980 residents that have taken part in our budget consultation will know, nearly two thirds of our budget is spent on safeguarding the very young and the very old. These services are statutory, laid down in law by parliament. With no additional resources put into these services our ability to provide for our most vulnerable citizens will come into question.

While any funding ring-fenced for the NHS is welcome(a one-off figure of £2 billion , not year on year) a more holistic approach to public sector funding is needed. If you cut our budget by £142 million, high spend areas such as Adult Services are not immune from this and the pressure on NHS resources goes up. It is both morally and economically sensible to integrate these budgets, the emphasis must be on early help in the home and community.

Enough really is enough. If the Chancellor genuinely believed “we are all in these challenging financial times together”, he would have responded to the cross party call for a fair approach to local government finances and deliver an even bolder approach to devolution.

If localism is to mean anything, then surely the realisation of this should be to trust local politicians and officers to make spending and investment decisions in their localities.

The recently announced devolution deal for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is a good start, but in hard cash terms this is just a fraction of the £22 billion of public expenditure applied in the city region. And if you were to do a brief assessment of the cuts imposed upon Greater Manchester local Authorities since 2010, (£1.2 billion by my calculation) the maths for local service are not good at all.

The vast bulk of taxes raised locally go to Whitehall, transferred to London to be allocated by London based politicians. The Chancellor’s autumn statement was an opportunity to address this imbalance in our economy. He could have provided us with the fiscal tools to move spending from Downing Street to our street.

I hoped that the Chancellor would have finally grabbed the bull by the horns and heeded the advice of the Local Government Association to give councils more power to vary local tax rates. Why not give voters a genuine choice and allow councils to borrow to build, and invest even more in the local economy to help stimulate growth and create opportunities.

Some of the measures announced just prior to this statement are welcome. The long awaited and campaigned for investment in our road infrastructure. The local Mottram Bypass will improve the transport infrastructure, ease congestion and create jobs. We have been here before, with promises made by successive governments over a period of 30 years. We will press this government all the way to bring this £170 million scheme to fruition.

I also welcome the review of Business Rates – enormous amounts of time are wasted on assigning rateable values to tiny premises. I would have gone a step further enabling us to vary Business rates offering discounts. This would form an essential part of the mix to revive our local high streets in Tameside.

In addition to this, what has been labelled “the Google tax” could begin to level the playing field between online and high street retailers, as well as ensuring that corporations such as Google pay their fair share of taxes. At our full council on the 2nd of December we passed a motion calling for such measures to claw back some of the £35 billion of tax avoided or evaded according to Treasury estimates. I am disappointed these proposals did not go further, a funding source that could have been used to save public services.

Instead the OBR have stated that 60% of public sector cuts are yet to come over the course of the next parliament. This is nothing short of catastrophic for public services. This ideological drive to shrink the state will change the very nature of our society, taking us back to levels of public service provision provided by government in the 1930’s.

My mantra as the leader of Tameside Council has been to put jobs and services before buildings. We have sold a number of council owned buildings with more to come, moved services into cluster localities, creating hubs in terms of library, advice and children’s centre centre provision. Our independent Auditors have commended us on our prudent approach to our finances, but going forward we cannot innovate with thin air.

It seems that ordinary families are continuing to pay the price for Mr Osborne’s failure to fulfil his promise at the last general election. A promise made in 2010 to clear the deficit by the end of the current Parliament. Borrowing has now risen from their target of £87 billion to £92 billion, largely due to reduced tax revenues, house stamp duty and a rising welfare bill.

This low wage, small state experiment is just not working. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility, the average full time working person is £2000 a year worse off, while public services are being cut, cut and cut again to the bone.

It is heartening to see Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor outlining the principles of a different plan – a better and fairer plan.

One that would be prudent with public finances, but balance the books with fairness as a guiding principle. The leadership team need to add more details to this to give Labour activists a credible narrative on the doorstep. For example, many of us were pretty clear that Alistair Darling proposed halving the deficit over this parliament in 2010, a plan Osborne criticised. The Tory Chancellor hasn’t quite managed that, now claiming this is a good outcome.

While the leaders in Greater Manchester have very much led the way on devolution, our party nationally now needs to quickly play catch-up.

We need a bolder statement that a Labour government would devolve even more too local areas such as Greater Manchester. Now is the time to shout from the rooftops that Labour is the champion for the Living Wage, will get 200,000 new homes built a year, freeze energy bills and reform the banks. Get the message out that a Labour government will cut business rates for small firms, boost apprenticeships, tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expand free childcare for working parents.

And because this Autumn Statement delivered too little too late to stop our NHS going backwards, Labour will do even more to tackle tax avoidance and introduce a mansion tax. We will save the NHS. Unlike the one off Tory £2 billion (which includes £750,000 already in the NHS budget), the Labour NHS plan will raise an extra £2.5 billion a year for the NHS.

So let us get the bit between our teeth and confidently argue that our plan will make Britain better off, while getting the deficit down in a fairer way.

Cllr Kieran Quinn is leader of Tameside council

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18 Responses to “Osborne’s new austerity will force local government beyond breaking point”

  1. Tafia says:

    Ed Balls has already stated that he will stick to tory spending plans up to 2017 & as recently as last week stated that he will not increase borrowing and will continue to pay down the deficit and the debt.

    So the only message about austerity is……. – no matter who wins, get used to it.

  2. wg says:

    Tameside Chief Executive and Directors don’t exactly seem to be suffering from austerity.

  3. Ex labour says:

    A couple of points if I may.

    The money you talk of is OUR money. It is not the states or Tameside councils.there seems to be an assumption from local authorities that they have a god given right to our money.

    Based on the performance of my Labour local authority I wouldn’t trust them with anything financial, let alone tax raising powers. Letting them loose with our money would be carnage.

    London generates huge tax income for the treasury, but most of this is spread throughout UK regions. Labour’s dim whit solution is to hit London with a mansion tax which would raise little and possible damage the potential tax revenues.

    The implication that the wealthy are just tax dodgers is a lie and one that is trotted out time after time. The top 1% of earners pay 28% of our total income tax revenue. Labour pushed up the top tax rate to 50% and the treasury lost £7 Billion. Do you learn nothing from this?

    The public suspect that the lack of detail coming from Labour is deliberate, in that not making any firm commitments or specific spending plans, there will be more hidden tax increases, pension raids and more.

    Finally why don’t you tell us all the salaries of your council executives there at Tameside?

  4. Landless Peasant says:

    Who in their right minds is going to vote for further Austerity? Not me!

  5. Dave Roberts. says:

    What it could do is to take us back to the level of local government provision of services of a pre WW11 level. The absolute basics and nothing more. That would mean that we would have to fall back on families and communities. Are we capable of doing that now?

  6. james says:

    Well the coalition government IS doing a lot more for devolution than was ever done under Labour who were more than happy to lord it over the rest of us. Kieran Quinn should know he’s taking part in it with `Devo Manc`.

  7. james says:

    The problem with all this is that it’s basically stating the obvious without looking at the bigger picture. Labour have always done best when they served people who were `current day detail` people (look up `sensors`) by looking after their immediate interests without saying how they could better their lives in the long term. Their dirty little secret is that Labour doesn’t have a long-term vision that wants to free people from having to rely on the state – otherwise it would make Labour politicians redundant. The only other answer is to fight for a Scandinavian style social democracy yet Labour daren’t tell people the responsibilities that that would involve. So they’re in a rock and a hard place.

    They acted as both opposition and party of protest between 2010 and 2013 yet now there’s a proper party of protest called UKIP.

  8. swatantra says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention. Who knows, new innotive ideas may be found to deliver targetted public services to residents for their CT ot IT, if they pay any tax that is. And who knows we might actually get citizens doing things for themselves, instead of having things done for them from cradle to grave. Itsalled self responsibility, being active concerned citzens and volunteering their services without expect a reward or knighthood or dameship. That perhaps is the lesson of the 1930’s, which were growth years leading up to the Great War Part II.

  9. Inside job says:

    Lets have a party at Tamside !

    Authority ID Authority Name Forename Surname Post title Directorate FTE Full time Renumeration £
    00BT Tameside MBC Steven Pleasant Chief Executive Chief Executive 1 166,929
    00BT Tameside MBC Sandra Stewart Executive Director of Governance (Borough Solicitor) Governance 1 124,003
    00BT Tameside MBC Tim Rainey Assistant Executive Director (ICT, Marketing & Communications) Governance 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Tracy Brennand Assistant Executive Director (People and Workforce Development) Governance 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Pamela Williams Executive Director of Finance (Borough Treasurer) Finance 1 115,283
    00BT Tameside MBC Benjamin Jay Assistant Executive Director (Finance) Finance 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Ilys Cookson Assistant Executive Director (Exchequer) Finance 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Stephanie Butterworth Executive Director (Communities, Childrens, Adults & Health) Communities, Childrens, Adults & Health 1 123,804
    00BT Tameside MBC Adam Allen Assistant Executive Director (Community & Neighbourhood Services) Communities, Childrens, Adults & Health 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Martin Garnett Assistant Executive Director (Adult Services) Communities, Childrens, Adults & Health 1 85,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Tony Griffin Assistant Executive Director (Children’s Services) Communities, Childrens, Adults & Health 1 85,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Robin Monk Executive Director (Economic, Growth, Investment & Sustainability) Economic, Growth, Investment & Sustainability 1 115,283
    00BT Tameside MBC Elaine Todd Assistant Executive Director (Asset and Investment Partnership Management) Economic, Growth, Investment & Sustainability 1 85,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Ian Saxon Assistant Executive Director (Environmental Services) Economic, Growth, Investment & Sustainability 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Damien Bourke Assistant Executive Director (Sustainable Growth) Economic, Growth, Investment & Sustainability 1 75,280
    00BT Tameside MBC Angela Hardman Director of Public Health Public Health 1 93,014
    00BT Tameside MBC Peter Morris Executive Director of Pensions Pensions 1 111,283

  10. John P Reid says:

    Let them eat art, fine example of capitalism selling T shirts with slogans , don’t think the Sex Pistols would approve of the copying of their record,they’ve never expressed left wing views,
    Landless peasant ,has it occurred to you, the majority of the voting public don’t hold your views

  11. Landless Peasant says:

    @ james

    “Labour doesn’t have a long-term vision that wants to free people from having to rely on the state”

    Why shouldn’t we rely on the State? We are all products of the State, all subjects of mass social engineering stretching back over several centuries, and therefore the State owes us a living.

  12. Landless Peasant says:

    What the Tories have done, and are planning to do, to the people of this country is purely criminal. Osborne should be Sectioned as a danger to the public.

  13. Landless Peasant says:

    @ John P Reid

    The majority of the voting public *that I know* do agree actually. People on the streets of Manningham, at the very bottom of the pile, longterm unemployed, sanctioned and living on Hardship, Disabled, heroin addicts, alcoholics, Foodbank users, and all very poor, ALL agree, ALL are as opposed to Blue Labour as they are to Tory Scum, ALL want Revolution, ALL will celebrate when this lot finally die.

  14. John Reid says:

    @that I know@ do you know a cross section of the coding public, when this lot finally die, so you assume that the next generation, don’t want a revolution either, and like the current situation.lol

    Rick from the young ones gre up to be Alan B’stard, so I suppose there’s hope for the rest of us

  15. Landless Peasant says:

    @ John P Reid

    “has it occurred to you, the majority of the voting public don’t hold your views”

    Like I said, the majority of the voting public whom I know and/or encounter DO indeed hold my views. Ignore us at your peril.

  16. Ruth Black says:

    Any financial pinches and cuts are more to do with the wasteful habits of our longstanding lazy labour council in Tameside. The councillors and the grossly overstaffed Executive Directors on Tameside Council and their stupid ‘expenses’ are a bigger concern for voters. How dare you preach to us about serious cuts and shortfalls in services. Cuts and pinches should start from the top!

    The labour party are so complacent and downright idle in Tameside. I hope and pray that all the fed up Tameside constituents vote with their feet in May and shift some of you.

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