The coalition’s sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts

This morning, Mark Wallace of the TaxPayers' Alliance, writing on the ConservativeHome website, accused the Labour leader of Lambeth council of "frightening people" about cuts to essential services; here, Steve Reed responds to these criticisms, and explains just who is to blame for the cuts.

This morning, Mark Wallace of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, writing on the ConservativeHome website, accused the Labour leader of Lambeth council of “frightening people” about cuts to essential services; here, Steve Reed gives some examples of the services that will be cut, and explains just who is to blame for the cuts

Councils across Britain are working out how to implement funding cuts on a scale not seen since before the Second World War. The coalition government have chosen to make people who use council services bear the brunt of paying down the cost of a global crisis caused by millionaire bankers. Council services will be cut harder than national government departments, and those cuts are being frontloaded on a massive scale to force councils to close services down rather than manage the cost reductions in a more sensible and measured way.

These decisions are political. The coalition wants to finish the job Thatcher failed to complete by killing off public services to allow the private sector to take over.

The term ‘council services’ doesn’t excite much passion. So let’s look in more human terms at what the coalition government is forcing councils to cut:

• It’s the home helps who enable frail older and disabled people to stay living in their own home;

• It’s the youth activities and youth workers who stop vulnerable young people going off the rails and falling into a life of crime;

• It’s the support teachers who help disadvantaged young people do better at school;

• It’s the people who sweep your street, collect your recycling and look after your local park;

• It’s the training that gets unemployed people back to work;

• It’s affordable childcare;

• It’s health workers who help mothers infected with HIV;

• It’s the professionals who protect children and women at risk of violent abuse;

• It’s the council homes that keep people from sleeping in shop doorways…

This is where the Tory-Lib Dem cuts will hit.

But in an act of sublime deceit, the Tories and Lib Dems intend to avoid the blame for what they’re doing. By cutting the overall funding and then making councils take the final decisions they plan to localise the blame for the cuts.

Labour councils like Lambeth will do all we can to protect the most vulnerable and protect frontline services.  But with a third of our total budget set to disappear there’s a limit to what we can do. Since winning back Lambeth Council from the Tories and Lib Dems in 2006, Labour has already cut out £35m in waste they left behind, frozen council tax for two years after they put it up 40 per cent, and invested in new services including better youth services and lunch clubs for older people. 

Our council is far more efficient than when they ran it, and where they left our council bankrupt we have stabilised the finances. Now we are exploring ways to turn Lambeth into Britain’s first cooperative council – looking for new ways to hand power to communities and the people who use our services in one of the most radical rethinks of public services in the country.
 
We will keep up the pressure to eliminate waste and we will remain focused on supporting those who most need our services. But do not believe the cuts that will come next year are the fault of our councils. These spending cuts are happening because of choices made by the Tories and Lib Dems in government.

35 Responses to “The coalition’s sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts”

  1. Susan Beck

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  2. John Hickey-Fry

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  3. NWL Unison

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  4. Daniel

    Is it not possible to set an illegal budget in protest?

  5. L DTUC

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  6. Broken OfBritain

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  7. GMT

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  8. David Marsden

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  9. Redstar PCS Stoke

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  10. Steve Reed

    Daniel – no, council’s can’t set illegal budgets. Under current law, if any council tried to do that their own Finance Director would be legally required to set the budget instead and to do that within the law. When councils in the past set an illegal budget – as hard left councils (including Lambeth and Liverpool) did in the 1980s – the end result was to create massive debt that we are still paying off today while services entered a spiral of failure that took years to clear up.

  11. Daniel

    Understood… Ted Knight on Saturday was saying we should pressure councils to act illegally and thus force central government to take control and take the blame, but I’m not as optimistic as he was about how that could work…

  12. Martin Johnston

    a must read RT @leftfootfwd: Coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  13. hindle-a

    Some Councils-like my own -Derbyshire County Council announced “regrettable” cuts way before the Spending Review and are now using the CSR as the smokescreen-it also is tory run with Lib-Dem “assistance” -funny that.

  14. Coalition plans to localise the blame for their cuts | Cllr Steve Reed

    […] This article was first published on Left Foot Forward […]

  15. Steve Reed

    I would disagree strongly with Ted Knight’s approach – remember, he’s the man who landed Lambeth in the mess we had to clear up after the 1980s. It would send a very odd signal to the electorate about voting Labour if we then handed control of Labour councils to the Tory-Lib Dem Government. I’d rather we beat them at the ballot box in the next General Election and, in the meantime, do whatever we can in local government to mitigate the worst effects of their cuts on the people and services we care about.

  16. Steve Reed

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  17. SE11

    RT @cllrstevereed: RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @ …

  18. Hazico_Jo

    RT @cllrstevereed: RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @ …

  19. Cllr Tim Cheetham

    Events in Lewisham tonight make this a prescient piece by @cllrstevereed on who will get the blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF

  20. Steve Chambers

    RT @CllrTim: Events in Lewisham tonight make this a prescient piece by @cllrstevereed http://bit.ly/eudKwF

  21. Malcolm Evison

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts http://bit.ly/eqlzMS

  22. Richard Watts

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts: http://bit.ly/eudKwF by @CllrSteveReed

  23. Zoe Stavri

    The coalition is forcing the councils to take the blame http://is.gd/hXDdF Will they be funding heavy-handed cops for all council meetings?

  24. Jon Rogers

    Steve, your presentation of the 1980s experience is one-dimensional at best and seems to me to avoid necessary debates about different strategic options facing the labour movement in these circumstances. Our best hope is surely that we either bring this Government down or force it to “U turn”. We need a political strategy to combat the cuts more than a managerial strategy to implement them (http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2010/11/tory-cuts-what-should-labour-do.html).

  25. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts http://bit.ly/eqlzMS

  26. Mr. Sensible

    Steve this is the sort of thing we’re seeing where I live.

    Only difference is that my local County Council is run by the Tories, who when challenged about the cuts resort to government type.

    And lets remember that at the same time as it is giving more decision-making powers to councils, the government has imposed a 1-year freeze in council tax, and is I believe proposing that if the proposed settlement after that is higher than a level which the government sets there should be a referendum.

    Is that localism, or not? Surely local councils should set their own council tax, and be held to account accordingly?

  27. Paul Evans

    The coalition – 'localising the blame for the cuts' http://bit.ly/hDyJha

  28. Tim Swift

    RT @Paul0Evans1: The coalition – 'localising the blame for the cuts' http://bit.ly/hDyJha

  29. Kevin Richards

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts http://bit.ly/eqlzMS

  30. Bethany W-Bradley

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition's sublime deceit in seeking to avoid blame for council cuts http://bit.ly/eqlzMS

  31. Mr. Sensible

    Similar here, Hindle-a.

  32. Mr. Sensible

    BTW, what would constitute an ‘illegal budget?’

  33. P Spence

    Steve- these are extraordinary times. Labour councils will have to impose devastating cuts and in effect are being co-opted in to the Tory attack on the welfare state. Your hands appear tied. Surely serious consideration must be given to the option of refusing to set a budget, stepping aside for local cuts to be made by the Tories and their civil servants, and fighting the Cuts from outside of the town halls. They have no mandate. Cooperating will simply confuse the electorate as regards what Labour stands for. If we agree that these Cuts are unnecessary and ideologically driven, as they are, then how can we cooperate with implementation?

  34. Nigel Wootton

    The people of Britain are not liable to PAY for the corporate greed of the world banking industry, that recently lead to their near total collapse. Especially not liable are the elderly, disabled, disadvantaged young people, poor and vulnerable. The hatchet should fall on the con-dem government instead.

  35. Ian Rathbone

    Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council has recently given some examples of the services that will be cut, and… http://fb.me/Fkcl5Ju0

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