Is this really the end of Local Government as we know it?

The leader of Birmingham City council thinks so. A 50% cut in budget over the next 3 years coupled with an increasing number of older people will mean the local council will no longer be able to afford to run Libraries, museums, swimming pools and parks. The reduced budget will be spent on child protection services and adult social care.

A free market, persecution of scroungers, failure of Hospitals to keep pace with demographic changes, educational standards falling behind are international competitors, an ever widening gap between the rich and poor, huge variation in life expectancy depending on location and social class. People against increased taxes but for reducing child poverty, improved educational opportunity and a decent environment to live in.

 Sounds familiar but this is a description of England from the 1830’s to the 1860’s not England in 2012. What happened next was that municipal administration transformed into local government. In places like Birmingham local business leaders recognised that keeping municipal spending to a minimum was a false economy, they saw the advantages in investing in the workforce, they recognised the kudos they could gain from promoting their city and many felt the great wealth that was being accumulated should be put to good use. Great public works were undertaken to provide clean water, better housing, street lighting, public parks, libraries and museums. The aim was to improve the health of the local population, make towns and cities safer and more attractive and give the ordinary working person a chance to improve themselves. Much of this was achieved by enabling councils to take out long term loans at favourable rates.

I worked in Birmingham in the early part of my career, as a big city it was a big provider of services and services to older people were no exception at that time the local council must have had over 80 residential homes for older people and nearly all of them were named after local councillors!

History shows us that local people can be persuaded to find the resources, moral courage and enterprise to improve their communities. But where will the leadership come from this time?

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