I suspect few people reading this will be fully aware of the extent of the crisis facing local government in the next few years.
Recently, a body called the ‘New Local Government Network’ held a ‘war-gaming’ budget-setting exercise in-volving 50 senior council officials from all over the country.
It imagined an average council (‘Any Borough’), estimated the scenario facing it (government cuts, rising numbers of old people, inflation etc.) and invited the officers to work out budgets through to 2018.
In the game, the officers maintained the quality of provision for adults with learning disabilities – but that was all they protected. They cut all spending on ‘culture’ (theatre, museums, libraries etc.) and ‘leisure’ (recreation centres, swimming pools).
They forced all their schools to become academies and thus cut all local expenditure on education. They introduced radical new ‘total place’ plans (where services are merged to end any duplication), for example merging NHS and Care budgets to meet rising care costs. They raised Council Tax and laid off council workers.
All these measures together were not enough to fill the budget gap.
The exercise was imaginary, but it gives an idea of the pressures facing the County Council and the Town Council in the coming years. The task facing councillors – to preserve what they can of council provision, and to minimise the damage to local communities – will be herculean.
If ever you considered the candidates carefully, and voted in a local election, now is surely the time to do so.
John D Clare