This is no time for council vanity projects

“Public service leaders have expressed dismay over the Queen’s Speech failure to address public sector issues including pay, social care and local government funding.

Today’s address laid out prime minster Theresa May’s legislative agenda for the next parliament but is far removed from the Conservative manifesto pledges she hoped to introduce.

She has been unable to push through all of her policy plans after she failed to win a majority in the bruising general election vote. The government’s weakness has been hampered further by the inability to finalise a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

There was no mention of May’s proposal to change the way social care was funded, pledges on grammar schools, retention of businesses rates for local councils or removal of the triple lock on state pensions.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said “pressing issues” were missing from the speech, highlighting social care, devolution and the NHS.

He added: “Without urgent action, both health and social care budgets will be stretched to breaking point. More realistic medium and long term financial planning, and investment in prevention, is needed to stabilise the financial position of the NHS.”

This view was shared by Jo Miller, chief executive of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, who said: “I am disappointed that key legislation – absolutely fundamental to ensuring the future sustainability of local government – has now been dropped.

“Local government urgently needs clarity around our future funding – at present we simply face a cliff edge from 2020. This must urgently be resolved.”

Claire Kober, chair of London Councils, also expressed disappointment at the lack of detail on council funding, adding she was “deeply concerned” by the absence of discussion regarding 100% business rates retention.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the civil service Prospect union, said this “was a missed opportunity” for the government to listen to the public over the election result.

“This was an ideal time for ministers to acknowledge that the 1% pay cap is no longer working and that public servants deserve a pay rise,” he said, adding that hard-pressed public servants would struggle to deliver a good Brexit because of bad pay and increasing world loads.

Alison Michalska, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, welcomed the measures on mental health and domestic abuse but criticised the government for not tackling funding concerns for schools and local authorities.

She said: “The government must recognise that there is not enough money in the education system rather than focusing on the way in which existing funding is distributed to schools.”

She said it was “a matter of urgency” that great clarity was provided on local government funding as children’s services face funding shortages.

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, claimed the government was ignoring the nation’s concerns while “ministers are living in a parallel universe”.

He said: “People have had enough of austerity, and want proper investment in schools, hospitals, police forces and local services. Yet there was none of this in the Queen’s Speech.

“Nor was there anything about pay. Nurses, teaching assistants, council workers, police support staff and other public sector employees should be rewarded for their hard work with a long overdue wage rise.”

3 thoughts on “This is no time for council vanity projects

  1. What amazes me is that these people don’t see that it’s the government’s beloved privatisation agenda at work. The government has no desire to save public services or local government. They are pursuing a plan to turn councils into businesses, we hear this mantra repeated even at EDDC (where most senior cllrs have never run a successful business and some even verged on bankruptcy). Wake up and smell the coffee!!


    • The government’s real agenda is clear enough to those that have their eyes open.

      The stated agenda is to get the public spending deficit down through austerity – but whilst ordinary people have suffered, and will continue to suffer, slashed services and big tax hikes (council tax hikes are a result of government decisions – don’t be fooled by the Tory statement that they haven’t raised taxes), government borrowing has actually doubled. So, despite the government’s statements, austerity cannot be about deficit reduction.

      The real agenda – which the Conservatives will admit to in principle if pressed – is small government i.e. a low tax, low public-spending economy. But what they won’t admit is that, to achieve this they have to cut public services everywhere, and where they are essential to privatise them. The rich, who don’t make use of public services – because they can afford the luxury of private everything, will of course continue to use private services, but the rest of us had better get used to either receiving only basic health and education services or to paying for them. (See US for how our health and education services will look, for example.)

      Privatisations completed: electricity, gas, water and rail . The result has not only been been big price hikes for all of these services, but for electricity also a complete lack of strategic planning to ensure we will generate enough electricity to meet future needs – hence the desperate deal to build a new nuclear power station (Hinkley C) with the French (fake nuclear safety certifications, dangerous existing reactors) and Chinese (sub-standard steel). The other result – massive dividends paid out to foreign governments who now own many of these utilities, dividends which would otherwise have been made to the Treasury to offset other taxes, dividends which may well have now exceeded the money received for privatisation (making the privatisation a net loss).

      In progress privatisation – education, social care, the NHS, local government. You have heard of Academy Schools – this is government double-speak for privatisation. First you cut funding, then you offer extra funding for Academy Schools (which are privately run) – in other words privatisation. NHS is already being sold off piece by piece and will likely be gone completely within 2 years. LEPs are a means for privatising local government.

      In progress part-privatisation – central government i.e. building policy and regulations e.g. development of planning policy by the big six developers. Not really any surprise that the policy benefits big developers.

      Privatisation not yet started – um … well … erm … is there anything left?

      Now ask yourself whether the massive tax cuts for the ultra-rich is the reason that they make huge donations to the Conservative Party? If you are a billionaire (and you might not even be a British Billionaire), it is actually a great investment to make a donation to the Conservatives – donate say £300,000 and if the Tories give you a 0.1% tax decrease, you make that back 10-fold over the 5-year period of the next Parliament – you just can’t get that sort of return on investment anywhere else.

      CONSERVATIVE PARTY – FOR THE FEW NOT THE MANY – paid for by the ultra rich, run by the rich for the benefit of the rich.

      CONSERVATIVE PARTY – SAVE MONEY NOT PEOPLE – if they cared more about people, the Grenfell House fire would not have happened. The Conservative government would not have sat on the recommendations from the last tower fire and would have passed improved regulations. The Conservative Council would have spent the extra £5,000 on fire-proof cladding – and rather than use the unexpected saving of £1m on the refurbishment to pay the local mansion owners a £100 bribe shortly before the last council elections, they could have used it for installing a sprinkler system. Wringing of hands, false sympathy and knee-jerk reactions after the event is not the same as putting the health and safety of the population at the top of your agenda beforehand in order to prevent such tragedies..


  2. Come on Owl, you are just scaremongering here.

    EDDC finances are going to go over a cliff anyway, so what difference does it make if Paul Diviani and chums spend a few £million of our council tax money on plush new offices in Honiton?

    What we all have to get behind is ensuring that Paul Diviani and chums will at least be able to peer over the fiscal cliff edge from their comfortable heated / air conditioned offices in Honiton, secure in the knowledge that it wasn’t their own money they wasted.


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