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Ealing and Northfield National politics

False Economy? Unfair economy certainly

The union backed campaign website False Economy did well this morning to get its report on charities losing cash from local councils onto the BBC News website front page and I heard it listed 5th on the Radio 4 9am new bulletin, see BBC story here.

False Economy is backed by public service unions such as Unison, PCS and FBU and the TUC itself. Key players are Alison Charlton, a Unison communications officer and Nigel Stanley, head of the TUC’s Campaigns and Communications Department. You get the picture.

It is the start of the silly season so you can half understand the BBC going for such a weak story. The BBC though is telling only half of it and it is ironic that it is the public service unions that are pointing out how council officers would rather rape and pillage the voluntary sector than look closely at their own staff numbers and terms and conditions. You only have to look at my own Labour council here in Ealing to get the picture.

In Ealing:

  • although the council is at great pains to dramatise the £85 million of savings it wishes to make as “cuts” almost half of this amount is its own growth (new spending commitments), additional borrowing costs and inflation. The cut in government grant does approach 30% but this is only about 12% in the council’s total income and expenditure.
  • in spite of massive changes to the council’s income there have been no changes to staff terms and conditions which include 35 hour work weeks.
  • the cost of employees rose by 1.6% last year to £152 million, see Statement of Accounts here.
  • at its last cabinet meeting on 26th July Ealing Labour cut Supporting People spending on people with housing issues, most of which goes outside the council, by 47%, see paper here.
  • at its cabinet meeting on 7th June Ealing Labour cut the amount it gives to voluntary organisations in the form of discretionary relief from business rates from £396K in 2009/10 to £88K. A cut of 78% or £308K for local voluntary organisations in Ealing, made even worse by the fact that these discounts on business rates are matched by central government to the tune of £197K, 78% of which will be lost too for no gain by the council, see paper here.
  • at its cabinet meeting on 26th April Ealing Labour cut 28% in the health and social care grant budget and 30% in the community grants budget over the three years 2011/12 to 2013/14, see paper here.

What we can see is that Ealing’s Labour council has made very little progress with reforming itself but has taken its own cut in government grant rather than the much lower cut in its overall income as the minimum starting point for the voluntary sector and in the more obscure areas such as rates relief and Supporting People has been truly vicious. Ealing’s Labour council has protected itself and externalised the pain. It is strange to see public service unions calling them out on this. You might have thought that they would be a bit embarrassed.