The impact of austerity is widespread. Spending cuts are painful and cause long-term damage to public services, those who rely on them and those who work in them. That’s not something that will be news to UNISON members or those who rely on their work. Yet after nearly a decade of austerity, there are those who will go through all manner of attempts to deny the impact of pernicious government cuts – even when the realities are staring them in the face.
What is currently happening in Lancashire County Council is a classic example. This is the fourth largest county council in the country, yet it’s had to deal with huge budget cuts that mean it’s in an incredibly difficult financial situation. You’d think that the leader of such a council would be speaking out against the failed austerity agenda that has caused so much pain, and yet County Councillor Geoff Driver CBE – the Conservative leader of the council – has other priorities.
Instead of accepting that the financial crisis at the council is down to ideological government cuts, he’s attempting a huge change in the way the council is run. Having already banned some senior managers from meeting with him, his plan is to restructure the senior management team, with proposals that won’t save money and with poor staff consultation. The ulterior motives of the council are plain to see – making certain senior, hardworking, dedicated council staff redundant could have serious financial and reputational consequences for the council.
Clearly there are widespread issues at Lancashire County Council. This is a council currently at the centre of a police investigation over the controversial “One Connect” deal with BT. This is also a council where council leader Geoff Driver is currently on police bail, over allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and witness intimidation.
This is clearly a chaotic council that needs turning around. The current Lancashire Tory leadership won’t speak out against Westminster-imposed austerity and yet the answer to the problems the County Council faces won’t be solved by slashing services and jobs and forcing out the chief executive. The people of Lancashire, including those who work for the council, deserve more than this sorry state of affairs. So new leadership is needed and Mr Driver should have the decency and good grace to go.