Editor's Comment

01.12.15

Public notice

Source: Dec/Jan 16

As PSE was going to press, we were still awaiting the local government financial settlement. This has rarely made for happy reading in recent years. 

With the number of rabbits-pulled-out-of-hats that George Osborne managed in the Spending Review, perhaps we should be more confident than usual about what the DCLG and Treasury have in store for local authorities, and the citizens who depend on and make use of their services? 

Or perhaps not. This government and its predecessor have rarely acknowledged the immense financial pressures that councils are under – especially as regards social care – preferring to talk of finding efficiencies, selling assets and raiding the reserves. 

These avenues do all provide opportunities for one-off cash injections or for long-term savings, yes, but do not begin to make up for the scale of rising demand and plummeting ‘income’ that most councils are facing. 

A traditional riposte has been that the public, apparently, have barely noticed the cuts that their own councils have made. Beyond the fact that many people are only dimly aware of who is responsible for what in our over-complicated and over-centralised system, and that councils’ most vital functions relate to a relatively small proportion of vulnerable people in our communities, perhaps that is not surprising. But it is very likely that more people will notice the impact of the coming cuts in this Parliament, as more and more valued services get closed or handed off to volunteers (or maybe the clamour will only become politically meaningful when the pothole situation gets out of hand…) 

Political argument will continue – some say public services are being defunded to clear the way for privatisation, others that public sector salaries, pensions and conditions are over-generous and that there is more fat to trim yet in service delivery. 

You can make up your own mind. There is plenty of analysis of the Spending Review itself in this edition of PSE, and we will be covering the local government financial settlement on our website as soon as it is announced. 

There’s plenty else on the agenda too, from devolution to education governance, and from the new Transport for the North body to sustainability in the wake of the (more successful than expected) Paris climate conference. You can find comment and analysis of all those issues throughout this edition of PSE – turn the page for more details and my Editor’s Choice. 

It just remains for me to wish all PSE readers a great Christmas from the whole team here – we’ll see you in 2016!

Adam Hewitt

Editor

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