Services 'hit hardest' by spending cuts

PUBLIC services will bear the brunt of another round of spending cuts, the government has been warned.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a 10% reduction in DEFRA's budget as the government continues to reduce spending.

The announcement was made as the Chancellor unveiled his 2013 Spending Round in the House of Commons on Wednesday (26 June).

"The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs will see a 10% reduction but we will set out plans for a major commitment to new flood defences for the rest of this decade," he said.

Prioritising long term capital through day-to-day cost savings was exactly the tough choice Britain should be making, Mr Osborne told MPs.

The Department for Communities will see its resource budget cut by 10%.

Mr Osborne said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had "set an example to all his colleagues" in reducing the size of his department by 60% and abolishing twelve quangos.

"He's a model of lean government," said the Chancellor.

Justifying his cost-cutting, Mr Osborne said local government had already taken difficult decisions to reduce staff numbers, share services and make savings.

We were told by the scaremongerers that savings in local government would decimate local services," he said.

"Instead, public satisfaction with local council services has gone up. That's because with our reforms, communities have more control over their own destiny.

"That's because we've devolved power and responsibility to manage budgets locally."

The government's philosophy was simple, said Mr Osborne. "Trust people to make their own decisions and they will usually make better ones."

But in return for these freedoms, the government had to ask local government for the kind of sacrifices central government was making.

This meant a 10% reduction in the local government resource budget in 2015-16.

Mr Osborne claimed local government spending would actually reduce by around 2% when other changes – including local income – affecting local government were taken into account.

But the Local Government Association said services would be badly hit.

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: "This cut will stretch essential services to breaking point in many areas.

"While positive steps have been taken to target NHS funding at social care, the fact remains that some councils will simply not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities.

"Services such as culture and leisure facilities, school support, road maintenance and growth-related programmes will bear the brunt of these cuts."

The 10% cut in real terms came on top of a 33% real terms cut already made to council budgets and confirmed local government as the hardest hit part of the public sector.

"Local services on which people rely will have to be significantly reduced as a result. No area of spending can be totally immune and some services will be wound down entirely."

"It's disappointing that a feudal approach still exists in relation to local government funding.

"Vital services are being damaged because councils do not have a seat at the table to negotiate a fair deal for local communities."

The government's support of Community Budgets signalled that the Treasury and No 10 were behind the necessary rewiring of public services, said Sir Merrick.

"It is absolutely essential that all of Whitehall signs up to this radical reform which will make big savings to the public purse and improve services for local people.

"This approach must be adopted by all parties as a general principle ahead of the election and subsequent comprehensive spending review."


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