I have spent the last two days at the Local Government Association Annual Conference in Birmingham.
As you might expect, the pivotal role of city and local government in delivering services has been emphasised, as has the impact of austerity on our ability to do the job we need to get done. It is important to note that not only has austerity hit visible public services, but it has also impacted on our less visible functions such as planning services that are essential to enabling the city to function.
The point has been made that of all public services, it is local and city government that has been hit first and hardest by the cuts. As a result leaders are saying when the government grows to realise the importance of investing for the future, it is local government that should benefit first and most.
The mood here is downbeat but resolute for change. People of all political parties are tired of austerity. Lord Porter, the Conservative LGA Chair has warned “we won’t be cleaning the streets, we won’t be cutting the grass, we won’t be putting the street lights on at all, your libraries will go, your pot holes will not get filled up. We will be back to just delivering the core services we have to deliver through statute.” This is a future our cities rejected at the general election.
The Government needs to listen to this warning. The public services Local Authorities provide aren’t simply a ‘nice to have’ but integral to the fabric of society.