Letter to the Times

Yesterday I was more than willing to sign a letter submitted to the Times by Cllr Richard Kemp and many other Lib Dem council leaders and group leaders.  

I reproduce it in full below because unfortunately you need to subscribe to read it on the TImes website. You can also read it and comments about it on the following websites.

Our Letter to the Times | But what does Richard Kemp think?
Lib Dem council leaders attack Pickles over speed and scale of cuts
Ian Eiloart: That Lib Dem letter in full
I won’t add anything else I believe  Cllr Kemp’s letter sums it up.

 The letter:


Local government is playing its part in tackling the country’s deficit and advancing the Coalition’s key aims of Localism and the Big Society. But local – and central – government are being badly let down by the Communities & Local Government Secretary of State who appears unwilling to lead the change that’s so desperately needed.

Local government has made efficiency savings of 3% each year for the past eight years – in stark contrast to the run-away spending of central government admittedly under the previous administration. We’ve also been planning for further saving – much further – 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 savings to the public sector in a way that can protect local economies and the frontline the cuts are structured in such a way 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 have been to facilitate necessary savings while at the same time promoting the advance of Localism and the Big Society. Unfortunately since the general election 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 constantly chastising and denigrating local authorities through the media, the government should be deploying all its efforts and those of its officials to helping councils minimise the impact on vulnerable communities and frontline services. 

We would be delighted to discuss with the Secretary of State positive ways forward in which 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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