John Clark writes…
First published: January 2011
Society must be judged on its poverty levels – not the wealth of the nation. Are there homes for the poor? Is there decent support for the elderly? Do the young have employment opportunities?
All these areas are being made worse by the ConDem government through savage attacks on Local Government finances. I have no problem with efficiency savings but the NYCC loss of government funding is a financial tsunami. It will result in cuts in frontline services. The questions are: What kind of society do we want? Is there another way of doing it?
In 1945 immediately after WWII Britain was in a far worse financial position than today. Yet despite this we launched a Welfare State, the NHS, increased expenditure on education and there was a massive programme of council house building. In 2011 we are going in the opposite direction. Cuts in front line services in the NYCC budget will make a reduction in the welfare state. The 2011/12 cut proposals includes:
- Residential placements for older people: £2.6m
- Closure of NYCC Elderly People’s Homes: £0.6m
- Domiciliary services including night sitting service: £1.7m
- Reduced support to carers: £0.5m
- Day provision/meals: £0.4m
- Support to voluntary sector: £1.4m
- Learning disabilities: £2.0m
There is a high likelihood of more to follow. I was going to mention Libraries at this point. I was told the figures were not yet completed. It was promised they would be with me by mid January. I’m still waiting. How a consultation can be meaningful without the numbers being available is beyond me.
The North Yorkshire cuts are not a matter of people being asked to stand on their own feet. It is saying to an 82 year old who has worked all her life ‘We will make it more difficult for you. Your meals on wheels will go up from £2.75 to somewhere between £3.50 and £5.00 – a 50% increase; your day centre will go up from £6 a week to £50 a week; and by the way your local Library is going to close.’ Why should someone who paid for and suffered WWII and who paid for the post 1945 investment in society pay for the present crisis?
If the ‘Big Society’ has any meaning at all then the ConDem councillors in Local Government should be railing against the government. They should be publicly telling the government that the present approach is an attack on our civilised society. The present national debt should be paid off. It should be paid off at a much slower rate. As a country we are considerably wealthier than Britain in 1945. The WW II debt was finally paid off in 2005 – over a period of 60 years.
The well-off (including MP’s and bankers) should be paying off the debt on a sensible time scale. It should not be paid by the poor, young ill elderly or disabled. These are the people who depend on Local Government services.