Below is a letter to local press following the announcement re cuts. These are worrying times.
Stroud District Council faces a whopping 28.6% cut over two years. This is a deeper cut than forecast and is bad news. This will impact on many people - particularly those living in rural areas where living costs are up to 20% higher than those living in urban areas (i).
Eric Pickles, Local Government Minister, talks about 'a new golden age' for councils and that they will be 'much more accountable to local residents'. But the reality is that councillors will now be accountable for how to make the cuts. Indeed Pickles is preventing local discretion to tax and spend and as a result we are not to be permitted powers enjoyed by democratic communities across Europe. They may talk decentralisation but as one commentator said of the Localism Bill: "A community will need government permission to blow its nose."
The Conservatives, with Lib Dem support, are in the process of dismantling and/or privatising Britain’s public services. It seems they are hell bent on completing the worst work of Thatcher and Blair. Everything from education to air-sea rescue has to suffer. In the process they are creating a more unfair society by shifting resources from relatively deprived inner-city areas towards more affluent shires. Councils are now completely powerless to protect frontline services.
Cuts this big will simply increase unemployment, meaning that the government raises less in taxes and will have to spend more on benefits. Similar austerity measures did Ireland a fat lot of good. Green MP, Caroline Lucas, has set out an alternative plan to tackle the deficit. Instead of hitting public services she has shown how we can tackle the deficit by increasing taxes for the very wealthiest, introducing a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, clamping down on the billions lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance, and scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons programme.
Cllr Philip Booth, Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward
(i) People living in rural areas have living costs up to 20% higher than those living in urban areas, according to a report by the Commission for Rural Communities. The Commission for Rural Communities has said someone in a remote village needs £18,600 a year to get by, compared with £14,400 for an urban dweller. It means a villager must earn about 50% above the minimum wage of £5.93 an hour to reach a minimum living standard. See more here.