Manchester City Council

Invisibility

This year's tortuous budget setting process came to an end today when the 2014/5 revenue budget was agreed at today's budget Council. I won't go into detail here as all the papers are available on the Council's website and insomniacs can even watch the debatein full online as it unfolded. I was first elected to the Council in the mid-1980s so was there when we were ratecapped in 1988 and later when we had to deal with enormous cuts arising from the imposition of the Poll Tax and the nationalisation of business rates.

This, particularly on the back of four previous years of government imposed cuts, was the most difficult budget we have ever had to deal with. The impact of " austerity " on local government is that some Councils are talking about being unable to meet their statutory responsibilities within the next couple of years. We were rescued this year by the Airport dividend but still had to make some testing decisions.

Given the scale of the cuts it wouldn't have been surprising to have arrived at the Town Hall this morning to find it ringed by protestors. There were a dozen or so muted campaigners at the front door and then only three or four people in the public gallery. I will put this partly down to the budget process we have followed which has been honest, open and transparent, sharing with the public every stage of the decision making process from November til now, including twenty five separate Scrutiny meetings. Another factor is though, and Ipsos Mori opinion polling backs this is, that most people haven't noticed the cuts because most people aren't greatly affected.

In proportionate terms, most Council expenditure goes on a comparatively small number of people. Looked after children and children in need, adults with learning difficulties, adults with mental health problems, older people with care needs. As that's where most of the money is spent, even though these areas have had a smaller percentage share of cuts, ultimately its the only place most of the money can come from. Unless you are directly affected, despite our best attempts to be open and transparent, most of the cuts are almost invisible.

There are 5 responses to “ Invisibility”

  1. franky Says:

    Austerity is a false economic theory, designed by the Tories to minimise the state. We need to stand up and say so!!

  2. Wilderness Says:

    The point is well made that the cuts are impacting hardest on disabled people, older people with care needs, and on children in poor families. The overall message of austerity has been to scapegoat the poor as a smokescreen for attacking the public sector. Some Tories believe the public sector should fit within one building in London, that is how far they would go.

  3. Truth Says:

    The reason why so few of the public no longer visibly protest is nothing to do with a lack of "visible cuts" and everything to do with them feeling powerless,disengaged and disaffected from politics in this country..let's be honest......the three major parties are basically all saying the same things-that further cuts and harsher economic times are inevitable-it's simply about degrees of scale.
    The right wing press has done a fantastic job of convincing people that "they all had it coming" and that it's all down to "scroungers"...and I'm sorry,but you have to wonder where the national Labour party vanished to in the last five years while this awful,spiteful Tory government has gone about it's wrecking-ball business on public services virtually unopposed-with all the Tories have done to the sick,the old,the young and the unemployed,they should be streets in front with the upcoming election...the fact that Cameron is even in with a sniff of winning tells you everything.
    People are seemingly more passionate about backing Clarkson than resisting cuts-just check the content of this blog from 2010/11,the contrast in the number of comments and debate when the first wave of cuts hit to now-a small hard core apart,resistance has been replaced by apathy and a resigned shrug to what's going on..very sad- but true.

  4. i love jack russels Says:

    Truth, your comments are right. Also applicable is a speech by Aneurin Bevan in Manchester in 1948 recalling the family poverty he experienced growing up..- which could equally apply today. Bevan said........ "That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.”

  5. Truth Says:

    The Tories are indeed a dreadful bunch,but at least we know hat to expect from them.History shows that their policies favour the minority establishment at the top at the expense of the rest,but the difference with this lot is that they have created a double whammy of cynically dismantling the front line public sector services and resistance to their privatisation plans from the inside,and thus increasing the strain on services like the NHS-and to be honest,with very little in the way of credible or organised opposition.
    My feeling is that during the next parliament and whoever is in power-public services will continue to reduce in size until eventually "council staff" will consist pretty much entirely of a team of commissioning managers tenedering out contracts for "best value"- the outsourcing of ALL services for the "Northern powerhouse" so beloved of Osborne will eventually become the established norm...

 

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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