The UK was once proud of local government and its employees. Today, through a combination of disrespect and neglect, we are dangerously blasé. Today, a dark cloud hangs over them despite their great efforts in very hard times. Talented people have left, and, as services reduce, capacity is being hollowed out.
A think-tank has urged councils to use new devolved powers from Westminster to help tackle poverty and inequality.
The cuts imposed on councils are too steep, happening too fast and unfairly distributed. There needs to be real-terms growth in the resources given to local government and distribution according to social need.
In recent years there has been no shortage of reports about how bad austerity is and how it is affecting the poorest the most. However, while much of this is well meaning, it is short on what we need to do differently. In the new manifesto for local economies, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (Cles) sets out ideas which breaks out of this austerity narrative and the present timidity of some proposed alternatives. For us, decent public services and fairness work with and for prosperity and against poverty and inequality. Cles draws on a range of experiences to reclaim a local economics which work for social justice.
Too often policy has little empathy toward the poorest. We already know that the policy default settings, such as trickle down and a ‘rising economic tide will lift all boats’ are just not strong enough to tackle poverty, even in times of growth. But increasingly, some policy seems alarmingly detached from the plight of the poorest. We don’t need to look very far to see this detached lack of empathy. It’s in the words of politicians, who denounce the benefit claimant as ‘a shirker’, but applaud the virtues of elite greed.