David Blunkett wonders why the Coalition's cuts aren't being met by "revolutionary fervour". Perhaps because he is misrepresenting them...?
By Tim Montgomerie
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In yesterday's Guardian newspaper Mr Blunkett launched a strong attack on Eric Pickles' cuts to local government yesterday, arguing that the poor were being hit hardest.
Here are replies to some of his central claims, using public information sources and advice from inside DCLG.
David Blunkett: "Councils are reaching the point where they will only be able to carry out their most basic statutory duties."
We all know that times are tough but according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy funding is actually only back to 2008 levels. The budget squeeze isn't easy but it is forcing local government to innovate (which the Coalition has given it unprecendented freedoms to do so) and also merge functions with other councils or public sector institutions. This, the FT has reported, is accelerating. Eric Pickles recently suggested fifty more ways of saving money to local authorities.
DB: "The prime minister's local authority of West Oxfordshire, one of the least deprived in the country, is losing £34 per head, while Hackney – the most deprived borough – is facing a massive cut of £266 per head."
This is very selective from Mr Blunkett. First of all his numbers lack context. Hackney's revenue spending from April will be £3,851 per dwelling compared to £1,871 per dwelling in West Oxfordshire. More significantly Hackney’s change in revenue spending of just -0.9% in 2013-14 is less bad than the English-wide average of -1.7%.
DB: "The 50 councils worst affected by government cuts will face a reduction of £160 per head on average, despite the fact that about a third of their children already live in poverty."
At this point I'll deploy this killer quote from the House of Commons Library (my emphasis): "‘For each of the expenditure/funding measures the more deprived areas generally receive higher per dwelling allocations than less deprived areas. % reductions are generally smaller for the most deprived and larger for the less deprived areas." In other words the cuts are falling hardest in percentage terms on Tory-voting areas - while during the Labour years those same Tory and rural areas saw their budgets grow less fast.
DB: "‘Local people (because it's not the councils that are taking the cut, but the services provided) are facing reductions far in excess of central government departments."
Because the NHS, schools and other central government budgets are protected then some parts of local government will be cut most but is David Blunkett really wanting hospitals to be cut too? Overall it's too early to judge his general claim. Rightly or wrongly local authority cuts were deliberately frontloaded and many central government cuts are backloaded. Mr Pickles' DCLG is due to make bigger cuts in its own Whitehall budget (of 44% by 2014/15) than it is asking of local authorities.
Mr Blunkett ends provocatively and rather mournfully with this question: "So why isn't there the revolutionary fervour that there was back in the 1980s?"
I'd suggest two answers to Comrade Blunkett's question. First, reasonable voters won't fall for his distortion of what is happening and second, they realise that you can't go on borrowing £1 for every £4 you spend. That way we end up as an impoverished, bankrupt nation - and then we're talking of territory that really is fertile for revolution.
PS Mr Blunkett should read Jeff Randall in today's Telegraph. It really is nonsense to suggest Britain is making deep cuts to the state.