Local government has been under incredible strain during the austerity years, and whilst Theresa May might claim that austerity is over, the reality is that it’s anything but. Services have been cut, jobs have been lost, but still local councils are falling deeper and deeper into the financial mire.
I’ve written several times before about Northamptonshire County Council, which is set to be abolished and divided up due to financial mismanagement. Today I visited another council which risks a similarly perilous state, with £14 million of additional in year cuts, piled onto of ongoing multi-million pound annual cuts – Somerset County Council.
Staff there told me about services and workers pushed to breaking point as they begin to ballot staff on the council’s latest cost cutting plan – forcing two days unpaid leave on staff this Christmas.
Like Northamptonshire, this is a Tory council, unleashing a localised brand of the austerity which has become the hallmark of their party across the country. Except in Somerset, as in so many local areas, the problems austerity causes are exacerbated by privatisation, outsourcing and ideologically driven attempts to keep council tax low.
Staff in Somerset are understandably concerned, but they have dedicated branch activists (including a whole new team), a region who have given them constant support and a whole union that stands beside them as they fight for the future of the local services they provide.
Together, we will fight for decent services, decent pay and decent jobs in Somerset, and everywhere else where austerity has pushed local services to breaking point.