Neighbourhood services in crisis

Natalie Ntim blogs

New research by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) reveals that the most deprived councils in England have had to make the largest cuts to ‘neighbourhood’ services, like bin collections, parks and libraries. In some areas, councils have made cuts of up to 40% to these universal services.

When the government cuts its spending on local government, councils lose important financial support. Few make enough money from council tax and business rates to fill the gaps.

So they are forced to cut jobs, squeeze workers’ pay and conditions and finally, cut services to make ends meet.

Neighbourhood services aren’t the only ones to be hit by cuts. However, because they are sometimes seen as ‘would like to have’ rather than ‘must have’ services, they are often cut first and more severely, so that councils can focus their shrinking budgets on areas like social care.

Cuts to neighbourhood services affect everyone. We all benefit from facilities like bin collections, street lighting, libraries and swimming pools. When they are limited or removed altogether, it affects a whole community, making it a less enjoyable place to live and work.

Although many councils have tried to maintain the quality of service provision with less money and fewer staff, public satisfaction is falling.

Cuts to neighbourhood services affect the rest of local government and other public services. They can help to prevent a small problem from escalating to a bigger issue that needs to be addressed by another service like welfare, social care or the NHS.

For example, community centres and supported bus services can help older people to tackle isolation by giving them the opportunity to spend time with others and travel more easily to access other services, alleviating pressure on social care and the NHS.

Neighbourhood services have been cut so severely that in some areas they have almost disappeared. These cutbacks affect us all, not just as public service workers or UNISON activists, but as a society. We must fight for well-funded, accessible local services that will benefit everyone in our communities.

What can you do to help?

  • Make sure you are registered to vote
  • Ask local candidates in the general election about their position on cuts to neighbourhood services and funding for local government
  • Ask them if they will support restoration of funds needed to provide adequate, high quality local services
  • Join the SOS campaign’s fight against cuts to central government spending on local services – email us to receive further updates
  • Show your support for local services by getting involved in UNISON’s Public Service Champions campaign.