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First Clegg, now councils, act as Cameron’s lightning rods

Posted on 14 December 2010 | 8:12am

The Tories (ie the government) will be feeling pleased enough with the spin operation surrounding the cuts to local authorities. The media were buying enough ‘power to the people’ (sic) to dilute the real impact of yesterday’s announcement, namely a savaging of services which local authorities provide and on which many people depend.

But just as David Cameron successfully set up Nick Clegg as the lightning rod for anger about a university fees system that benefits the rich, so the coalition has just about won Round One in its battle to set the councils up as the bad guys when the cuts fall locally.

One of the coalition’s communications successes has been their robotically delivered statement that they are making all these spending cuts because of the mess Labour left behind. It is a statement that can be torn apart bit by bit, but it hasn’t been, the media rarely challenge, so to some extent the Tories (with Lap Dog support) have got away with it.

Now, as the local authority cuts go through, watch how they perform a similar trick – these cuts will suddenly become an expression of localism, and if you have a problem, take it up with the local authority or, better still, join the Big Society and run your own library, swimming pool, refuse collection service!

Gordon Brown used to be accused of disappearing whenever the brown stuff was hitting the fan and flying in the direction of the then Prime Minister. In this government, it is the Prime Minister who goes awol when the trouble starts. It is a habit that people will start to notice.

Meanwhile, it is still not too late for Labour to take apart the claims made by the coalition about why they are ‘being forced’ (sic 2) to make all these cuts. It will not be done overnight, but over time, and it needs to be done strategically, with determination and confidence, and in a way that puts Mr Cameron where he doesn’t like being – facing repeated and difficult questions over the decisions he has made.

  • Sarah Dodds

    I was both stunned and dismayed by the way the press rolled over and accepted the laughable / insulting / pathetic amount being given to schools via the pupil premium. My own boss reckons that our schools is going to be at least £5000 down next financial year, now he knows what the premium will be. As some may know, my job as a one to one tutor is almost certainly gone, and I’m just awaiting the final nail in my coffin. But now with the premium at such a low level, and with other cuts, my head will be forced to get rid of a PT teaching assistant too. Today I also saw on the news that a school in Suffolk is trying to put their lollipop lady on the schools’ own books because the county council have made them redundant. And at another Suffolk school, the teachers have worked out a rota to do it themselves. Very big society.
    Being a political novice, I don’t know what the phrase “real terms” means for sure. Real terms increase/decrease??? Don’t know. I prefer to see it as what is happening now in real life. And in “real life” terms we are all being toally screwed. And I become more convinced by the day it is for the sake of a selfish and narrow political ideology. I hate life under the Tories.

  • I’ve just been watching a piece on the BBC about school crossing patrols losing their jobs. They might appear to some as benevolent old ladies and gents performing a stalwart task – actually they have powers under the law which will not extend to others – whether paid or volunteers. Watch the merde hit the extractor as soon as a child is hurt. But of course it won’t be the government that’s criticised – ” Not me, guv” will be the new mantra.

  • Robert Jackson

    Er, like the Costa Coffee outlet at The New Art Gallery Walsall not being asked to pay the rent since 2007 by the Tory council?

    (See Wolverhampton Express and Star for details.)

    Tories moan about the tick-box culture but someone somewhere is desperately wishing right now there’d been a piece of paper back in 2007 saying:

    Qn 1 – Have we asked Costa for the rent? Yes/No

  • Dave Simons

    The other successful ‘Con’ trick has been shifting public attention and debate relating to the current global economic crisis away from the private sector casino capitalism which was at the root of it to the public sector which wasn’t. As a profligate and feather-bedded public sector employee – one of those people Sir Philip Green perhaps has his eyes on – I’ve had an effective pay freeze for the last three years, so the one beginning next April will feel a bit routine. The difference next year is that my job might go altogether. It feels like 1986 – 1997 again!

  • Olli Issakainen

    It is very easy to prove that Labour did not cause the mess. This can be done simply by using official figures. It is important that Labour does this because otherwise Labour will find it difficult to get its credibility back.
    And here are the numbers. Before the financial crisis, which started in the US and was caused by banks, the UK debt was only 40% of GDP. The structural part of the deficit was only 2.7% (only 1% if you take into account investment).
    The deficit in 2006/07 was £5bn and in 2007/08 £4bn. Labour ran small deficits on an average of only 2.5%.
    Then came the financial crisis and recession. The deficit jumped to £49bn in 2008/09 and to £100bn in 2009/10.
    (These figures include financial interventions.)
    You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the deficit was caused by bank bailouts and recession which meant lower tax revenues and increased benefits costs. IFS has confirmed this.
    It does not help much if you give power to local authorities but not money! Charities and voluntary organisations are also lacking billions in support. So much for localism and Big Society.
    Messrs Cameron and Osborne always blame others. They even created OBR to take the blame they cannot put on Labour. But Labour and Gordon Brown saved Britain from depression. Real mess would have been caused had the Tories been in power during the financial crisis and recession.
    The Tories opposed all measures which saved banks, jobs and homes. Before that they supported Labour´s spending plans and light regulation of the City.
    It is amazing that clever people like Andrew Rawnsley believe that the Tories do not want to make the cuts. But they do. We all remember that David Cameron said in his party conference speech that it is because of Big Government that we are in this “mess”.
    The simple truth is that the Tories want to privatize public services. Much of the cuts are ideological and completely unnecessary.
    It is time for the media and electorate to realize this.

  • Teresa

    Wish you were here 🙂

  • Max Wallace

    ‘power to the people’ (sick)

  • Nicky

    Very good summary, Olli.

    The government are utterly amoral in their attempt to brainwash the electorate with the insulting ‘Labour’s mess’ mantra. However, the truth will prevail eventually. Labour and its supporters have an enormous task to get the message across, and this is where the internet is so useful. No longer does the largely right-wing mainstream media have the influence it once had.

    And the Labour message is getting across – for instance, every week on Question Time, some ConDem politician will trot out that line, to be met with bigger groans and catcalls every time. The publication of Gordon Brown’s book about the crisis will also undermine the government’s lies.

    Like you, I find Andrew Rawnsley’s attitude puzzling – it seems extraordinarily naive (unless he’s got some kind of hidden agenda).

  • taurus43

    Thanks Olli

  • Paul Murphy

    The sad thing is that there is substance behind the Big Society idea if it were to be developed in a logical and strategic way. The Third Sector, at its best, can deliver effective social change at grass roots level but it needs a cogent long term relationship with local and national government and the health sector to achieve this change. However none of these sectors understand each other, New Labour had begun to do really good work in this area.which is now being left to wither. It can be done , see “www.” ” for an initiative that seems to be working, an approach not being rolled out in England or Wales.

    Cameron’s Big Society guru, Philip Blond and his think tank Respublica, actually dispenses a respectable level of sense and logical thinking on the subject, admittedly wrapped up amongst some other very strange stuff, but… Cameron seems to have hijacked the Big Country idea without applying any of the medium to long term investment and support needed to work. It would be good to turn the spotlight on Mr Blond and ask for a commentary on the Coalition and the Big Society.

    The really frightening thing is how quickly the public thinking landscape can change. I ran a network of Libraries for a Local Authority in Wales just a couple of years ago, and we had a CEO who proposed the running of Libraries by local volunteers and he was laughed out of court by public,staff and most Councillors, much to the chagrin of the Local Authority Accountants who love nothing better than to please their local political masters by cutting expensive fluffy lefty service areas like Libraries, Arts, Museums , wheras now it’s practically accepted wisdom that Libraries can be run by well meaning volunteers.

  • Richard

    No word of double dip recession any more, Al? For the last year double dip has been lLabour’s fig leaf: now it is gone.

    So all the Local Authority cuts are un-necessary and dogma based, are they? Compare with the costs of Irish debt repayment.

    Geddit? Andrew Rawnsley certainly does.

  • Andrea

    I work in local gov comms and we are not taking this lying down. Let battle commence….

  • Anna

    I’ve just had a post censored on the BBC ‘Have Your Say’! The question was ‘Should more power be held locally’? I simply said there was no point in devolving power without the money to implement decisions. Cuts in funding from central government mean cuts in local services – and local government will be blamed for those and not – Cameron & Co hope – the central government. I asked whether this was what was meant by the Big Society – cut funding and jobs and get volunteers to work for nothing?

    Hardly an inflammatory call to revolution – but the BBC moderators censor my post and warn me that I might be banned if I continue to offend!

  • Mayski

    Olly for Chancellor!

  • Dave Simons

    Don’t count your chickens, Richard! The Coalition technique so far has been to claim credit for favourable economic figures that were the result of decisions taken by Brown/Darling (they could not possibly have been a result of decisions by Cameron/Osborne in such a short time span) and to blame unfavourable figures on the previous government. No doubt they’ll be blaming today’s rise in unemployment on the Labour Government – watch this space!
    Bear in mind that this recession has been compared to 1929 and its sequel. What lifted us out of that recession was rearmament in preparation for World War 2 – state spending on heavy goods that needed quick replacement. Things didn’t start booming in the UK until the mid-1950s. That was a quarter of a century of depression, war and austerity. Maybe we’ve learned something since then, but just three years on from Northern Rock don’t hold your breath!

  • Mayski

    Alistair for Chancellor (just heard him speak in the House)
    Olli for Chief Secretary

  • Alwyn Roberts

    Bit early yet to say dont you think.Unemployment has increased sharply this month. Also Rawnsley got it completely wrong about the Labour party in his book “The end of the party”so I dont think you should take his opinion too seriously!