Can you picture £11 million? I mean, actually picture it? In cash, in change, in whatever denomination you like. Can you see it in your mind’s eye?
But the number is one which I haven’t been able to escape. £11m is how much Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s funding has been cut for the 2015/16 financial year. £11m is how much less that the council have to spend on local services for Southenders.
So when you’re writing your Christmas thank you letters, don’t forget to thank the Tories and Lib Dems, and especially Uncle Eric at the DCLG. Because of them the council will have to make some tough decisions next year, and won’t be able to fulfil as much as it would like to to make your lives better.
Cheers for that.
There are a few things that are annoying me about this. Firstly, it’s buck passing at its cheapest and worst. This cut has been made to Southend by the Department of Communities and Local Government, by central government. But it will be down to councils to decide what to cut. And it will, of course, be councils that are blamed when services deteriorate.
But that is nothing as to how unfairly these cuts have been dolled out.
When I used to live in Wokingham, the council leader used to incessantly complain at how poorly Wokingham was funded by the government. Anyone who has been to Wokingham will know, of course, that Wokingham is a very affluent area, and frequently ranks amongst the wealthiest and least deprived local authorities in the country.
Odd, then, that whilst Southend sees its funding slashed by an eye-watering 28% year-on-year, Wokingham enjoys an increase. The neighbouring Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, unsurprisingly also affluent, is also getting more money. You may also notice that these places are Tory-dominated strongholds.
I find this graph a particularly interesting read:
So Southend is faced with the unpalatable choice of how to deal with the shortfall. £11m isn’t an easy amount to find, especially with the Tories having already cut services to the bone. I’ve had conversations with more than a few Labour councillors privately and publicly furious about the settlement. I haven’t seen much from anyone else on the matter.
Where is the anger? Where is the fight? Do the Lib Dems, the Independents, UKIP, even the Tories not think that Southend deserves better?
I have, as it happens, every faith in the Labour councillors in the joint administration to do their best to find a fair settlement, which will provide the best for residents. But it is the Tories and their Liberal Democrat accomplices in Westminster who are behind this, and it should not be forgotten.