Disastrous decision by coalition to prolong austerity measures
CORNWALL councillors are in the midst of a series of grim meetings in which they are considering the unitary authority's budget for next year.
Having already seen millions slashed off its budgets in previous years, Cornwall Council was expecting to have to make so-called "savings" of £19 million in 2014-2015.
But further cuts from central government mean that the council now has to cut £44 million from its budget.
The coalition Government has also announced that it intends to continue the austerity measures for a further four years.
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This is a disastrous decision and means that there will even more devastating cuts to local councils.
I believe that these cuts will destroy the very basis of local government and undermine its ability to provide those services upon which local people depend.
Cuts to local government are so much greater than the cuts to other parts of the public sector, and spokesmen from the Local Government Association are rightly pointing out that the funding reductions will "stretch essential services to breaking point".
Some leading Conservatives are even admitting that the Government is getting it wrong.
Lord Heseltine, for example, has described the spending cuts as "over the top".
He told the BBC: "It is not right that local government should take what will be, for many people, a 40 per cent cut. It jeopardises the whole point of what we do in relation to our services and our communities."
He also added: "People will wake up in two or three years' time and, in many cases, their local council will not be there as they know it."
He is so correct.
Last week, two small district councils in Devon – West Devon and South Hams – announced that they had a joint £4.7 million hole in their budgets and were planning to make over 100 staff redundant.
In Cornwall, officers have raised the possibility that – as suggested by central government – the unitary authority should examine the option of merging the Cornwall Fire Service with the fire service covering Devon and Somerset.
Such a proposal was rightly and swiftly dismissed by councillors.
But it does show the frightful nature of the decisions being forced on local councils by the coalition Government.