Magic Money Tree
On most days, I receive a request or a suggestion for something that will cost public money.
I rarely get asked for something that I think would not have some benefit. It’s usually something connected to improving pavements or a lay-by, or the layout of a road.
The problem that I have is that I am operating in circumstances where there are now almost no resources to achieve anything.
The austerity cuts have been in place since 2008 and local government has had to endure some of the most sweeping cuts of all.
It hasn’t been protected in the way that the NHS and Education have been (although both these areas are now coming under extreme pressure).
I think that the overall mood of the country has changed, mostly in an expression of support for the Labour party.
Voters across the country have become disillusioned by the Tory economic policy which has been to cut public spending year after year, to the point where those things we value are falling apart.
The situation locally is interesting. Voters here mostly opted to return conservative politicians to power.
It’s the illusion of the “Magic Money Tree”.
At my first meeting on returning to Hampshire County Council, the Chief Executive proudly announced that the authority had achieved over £300 million in savings.
He didn’t list all those things that have been cut. We would have been there all afternoon if he had done so.
The conservatives in Hampshire are still proposing to follow austerity measures.
I am attending a meeting this afternoon, to be briefed on how they plan to slash another £140 million from the budget.
Interestingly, the conservatives nationally, are likely to change economic policy, perhaps now accepting that the priority now is to stimulate growth in a post-Brexit economy.
Having debt is never a good thing, but creating a spiral of decline with a low wage economy, part -time jobs, people only just managing and a lack of investment is probably an even worse scenario.
If the government now changes direction, driven by a stronger opposition, then that might well be a very good thing.