Thursday, February 10, 2011

Letter from the Lib Dem Cllrs to DCLG

Hat tip to Lisa Ansell,

Sir, local government is playing its part in tackling the country's deficit and advancing the coalition's aims of localism and the Big Society. But local and central government are being let down by the Communities and Local Government Secretary who appears unwilling to lead the change that's so desperately needed.

Local government has made efficiency savings of 3% in each of the past eight years - in stark contrast to the runaway spending of central government under the previous administration. We've also been planning for further saving since the true state of the economy became apparent six months ago.

What has been delivered is a difficult cuts package across all government
departments, but clearly the most severe is to local government. These cuts will have an undoubted impact on all frontline council services, including care services to the vulnerable.

Rather than assist the country's recovery by making public sector savings in a way that can protect local economies and the frontline, the cuts are so structured that they will do the opposite. The local government settlement will take a major hit in this coming financial year and further, smaller, cuts in subsequent years.

This front-loading means councils do not have the lead-in time necessary to re-engineer services on a lower-cost base and ease staff cuts without forced, expensive redundancies.

Inexplicably, local government is also being denied the opportunity to spread the cost of reorganisation and downsizing over several years - at no cost to central government - which just makes even bigger in-year cuts inevitable the Secretary of State's role should be to facilitate necessary savings, while promoting the advance of localism and the Big Society. Unfortunately, Eric Pickles has felt it better to shake a stick at councillors than work with us.

Local and central government should be united in a shared purpose. Instead of chastising and denigrating local authorities through the media, the Government should deploy all its efforts to help councils minimise the impact on vulnerable communities and frontline services.

We would be delighted to discuss with the Secretary of State how we could take on the difficult challenges shared by all levels of government and would prefer to do this than continue with the gunboat diplomacy which is the current order of the day.

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