There has been much discussion about the Government’s austerity programme since the Autumn Statement last week – some even suggesting austerity is over.
Let’s look at the facts. Despite what was said about no new police cuts, that doesn’t mean the horrific proposals to shut Ockendon and Tilbury police stations and get rid of nine-tenths of our PCSOs won’t go ahead.
They will! “No new police cuts” does not mean the already announced cuts have been rescinded. “No new police cuts” also begs a question – where will the savings come from instead? Let’s look at Thurrock Council’s position.
In 2010, we received about £62.5million from government grants. Last April, our equivalent grant was £26.5million, and we are expecting the Chancellor to say the April 2016 grant will be £17million. That’s a reduction of £45.5 million, or £760 per Thurrock council taxpayer, or somewhere in the region of an 80 per cent rise in council tax to cover it – not that I’m suggesting we do that.
The Chancellor has also announced councils with social care responsibilities, such as Thurrock, can put up to two per cent on council tax to support adult social care. That’s £1million, not enough to cover the £1.5million extra cost of the Living Wage for carers, let alone the £1million-plus extra pressures on the service.
Despite the headlines, I’m afraid I have to tell you austerity is not over, and won’t be for the foreseeable future.