HUNDREDS of jobs in children’s services face the axe in Bradford, the Morning Star learns even as a new survey reveals councils across the land are already failing the young.
Bradford has been bleeding for years, with jobs lost at libraries, in adult social care, police community support and many other areas.
This is not down to local government sadism. It is because funding for vital services is being cut off: by 2020, the metropolitan district — one of the country’s most deprived — calculates its spending power will have halved in 10 years. It lost the equivalent of £220 per inhabitant over the course of the last parliament.
The bigger picture isn’t any prettier, with local authorities having lost 40 per cent of their central funding since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition started hacking away at Britain’s social contract in 2010, and local government job losses amounting to more than half a million in that time.
Tories like to talk of bloated government, money being lavished on the undeserving.
This is fruitful as councils are rarely popular. Aided by the right-wing press, they use justified anger at the fat-cat salaries paid to some council leaders and well-publicised cases of local government corruption to claim that the sector needs cutting down to size.
Councils tend to take the blame for failing services, and the regressive nature of council tax — which takes no account of income and is divided into bands based on wildly outdated property prices, leaving the owners of mansions worth millions paying no more than tenants of homes worth 10 times less — adds to the general ill will directed at the institutions of Britain’s withered local democracy.
Cuts to council budgets don’t prompt the anger inspired by cuts to the NHS or schools. But they can be just as damaging.
The National Children’s Bureau finds that 41 per cent of councillors say their councils can no longer afford to meet even their statutory duties towards children, which include the need to protect vulnerable infants: 36 per cent say they don’t have the money to help children in care, and 35 per cent said the same about children in need (a category which by law includes disabled children).
The service cuts come as demand for them rises. And demand is rising as a result of Conservative policies too: the increase in child poverty means a corresponding increase in reliance on local services. So do cuts to benefit payments and child allowance.
Children who do not receive adequate support when young can underachieve for their whole lives: National Education Union joint general secretary Mary Bousted has said deprivation is the “single biggest factor” in poor performance at school.
Nor can cuts to local government be justified by the need to prioritise other services: pressure on the NHS, for example, is increasing because of reduced access to council-run social care.
Councils need more money if they are to discharge the services citizens have a right to expect. The funding cuts to local authority budgets over the last seven years need to be reversed.
But councillors must also resist the villainous role in which Tory chancellors have cast them, by refusing to tear up local services and becoming champions of the communities they represent.
Combined with a mass membership Labour Party, a trade union movement increasingly alert to the need to organise the street as well as the workplace and a reinvigorated trades council network, left-wing local authorities can be focal points for the democratic social revolution this country needs.
But if they limply pass on Tory cuts, they do untold damage to that cause — as well as to the people who need the services they provide.