The Cuts in Action: A Local Council’s Approach

axe man
Image by Dystopos via Flickr

Not All He’s Cracked Up to Be

As we contemplate the violence and thuggery that followed Saturday’s TUC anti-cuts march, here is a reminder of what we are up against.

In an idle moment today, I read the leaflet that was delivered with our council tax bill. It is a joint leaflet between the County Council and the Police Authority. It provides two very clear examples of what is happening in the public sector, and why those anti-cuts marchers were so misguided.

Exhibit 1: in the introduction for the County Council, the Conservative leader of the council is quoted thus:

With £136 million to save over the next four years, and £73 million in this financial year alone, we’ve had some very difficult decisions to make.

Later in the leaflet, the figures are shown for council expenditure:

2010/11 – £1,045 million
2011/12 – £1,032 million

Subtracting one from the other gives a reduction of £13 million.

And for those who are mathematically challenged, £13 million does not equal £73 million.

Exhibit 2: the Police Authority budget is split into three parts.

First, the “Crime and Justice Command”. This covers things like major crime investigations, forensics, the CID and Special Branch. The money for that is going down this year from £34.6 million to £33.6 million, a cut of £1 million or 3 percent.

Second, the “Territorial Command”. This covers local policing – things like bobbies on the beat, the emergency response teams and the Communications Centre. The money for that is being cut more, from £44.2 million to £41.2 million, a cut of £3 million or 7 percent.

And third, “Other Departments and functions”. This is described as “including HR, Finance, Training, Press and media, ICT, Corporate Development etc”. In other words, it is the back office staff. The money for that is being cut … no wait, it is being increased from £35.18 million to £35.20 million. A tiny increase of only 0.05 percent, to be sure, but an increase nonetheless while the front line policing functions are being cut.

Let me say right away that the local Police here are excellent – and that is precisely why I don’t want our bobbies cut by 7 percent while the back office staff don’t get cut at all.

A further clue as to what is wrong with government in our country can be found on the County Council’s budget page, which has a link to the “Budget 2011-2012 Equality Impact Assessments”.

This page has no less than 120 “Equality Impact Assessment” documents, each of which is a fairly detailed form solemnly filled in, each one supposedly assessing whether one of the cuts being made will hit any particular groups harder than others.

One of them has this:

GET THE DOCUMENT SIGNED OFF BY A DIRECTOR, HAVE IT AVAILABLE ON SHAREPOINT, AND KEEP IT ON FILE AS PART 1 EQUALITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT.  COPY IT TO THE EQUALITIES TEAM.

What would the council do, after all, without an Equalities Team to make sure that the services being cut are cut fairly?

This, remember, is in a Conservative controlled council. It really is beyond parody.

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