John Lewis, UNISON North West Head of Local Government, commenting on the Government’s announcement of further swingeing cuts to local council funding, said:
“On the present course, councils will have lost 50% of their Central Government funding between 2010 and 2020. This is a shocking figure but it’s even worse in our region. Some of our authorities will have lost half their funding as early as 2016/7. We are reaching a point where our inner city authorities, which have higher levels of social need, will not even be able to provide statutory services by 2020.
“The cuts have had a significant impact on services already. In adult social care, it is now only those with the greatest need that can get any help from our councils. This may be invisible, but it impacts on the quality of life of vulnerable people.
“We’ve seen closures of amenities in our communities – such as Day Care Centres and Sure Start Children’s Centres. Some facilities have been threatened with closure and only remain open after local communities have campaigned to keep them. Other services are no longer available for as long they were – with libraries opening hours reduced. Charges are being introduced for services that were once free – like community transport for elderly and disabled people. Services are less frequent – where bin collections were once weekly, now councils have moved to fortnightly collections and some are considering making them three-weekly.
“A national BBC survey last year indicated that 63% of people are worried about the cuts made to public services and only a quarter thought cuts should go further.
“Councils are coping as best they can, and council workers are working tirelessly to keep services going – but the unrelenting pressure on services is taking its toll.
“Public spending cuts are building up greater social problems for the future and cuts in one area are having knock-on effects elsewhere. Cuts in social care increase demands on the NHS, cuts in early years provision increase demands on social care and specialist education, cuts in youth services lead to increased demand on policing, and cuts to welfare increase demand on social care, health and policing.
“Making our public services scratch around for savings year after year is having a really negative impact on our ability to meet social need.
“When they came into power in 2010 the Government presented their cuts as if they were a temporary and unfortunate response to an economic crisis. Four and a half years later – and after hearing George Osborne’s plans for the future – it is clear that we’re on a road that would lead to public services being rolled back to 1930s levels. Austerity needs to be ditched.”