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