The National Audit Office (NAO) has today (19/11/14) made what, I feel, to be a surprising revelation that Eric Pickles’ doesn’t understand the impact of cuts to Local Authorities, like Liverpool.

Once the axe is dropped, then that’s it!

In a NAO press release published today – ‘Financial sustainability of local authorities 2014 & The impact of funding reductions on local authorities’ – it reveals that “the Department (for Communities and Local Government) does not monitor in a coordinated way the impact of funding reductions on services, and relies on other departments and inspectorates to alert it to individual service failures.

“In consequence, the Department risks becoming aware of serious problems with the financial sustainability of local authorities only after they have occurred. The Department’s processes for assessing the capacity of authorities to absorb further funding reductions are also not sufficiently robust.”

This is plainly laughable. How embarrassing for this government to have to face the fact that if you want to know about the impact the cuts are having on local government, the very last person you should ask is the Secretary of State for local government!

If we were to approach our business in a similar way, you can bet your soon-to-be-cut bottom dollar that Mr Pickles would go running to the media lambasting the cavalier way we are managing our money.

Not only is this a joke, it’s frankly insulting. These cuts are having a massive impact on people’s lives, their communities and the ability of their elected representatives to serve their needs.

And how about this, for a sentence from the NAO? “The Department for Communities and Local Government has a limited understanding of authorities’ financial sustainability and the impacts of funding cuts on services.”

That just beggars belief! Yet when we complain, we are told to like it or lump it!

The report, doesn’t stop there, it also says what I have been saying, since this government started blindly swinging their indiscriminate axe, that some authorities have been hit harder than others – unfairly!

I quote: “There are significant differences in the scale of funding reductions faced by different authorities. Authorities that depend most on government grant are the ones most affected by funding reductions and reforms. This was an outcome of policy decisions to tackle the fiscal deficit by reducing public spending, and for local authority funding to offer incentives for growth.”

In other words the poorest have been hit the hardest – Kensington in Liverpool is a significantly different place from Kensington in London, but which has been higher up Pickles’ hit list?

You might say it’s just me having a pop at the Tory-led coalition, but read these words in the report from Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office: “Local authorities have worked hard to manage reductions in government funding at a time of austerity … The Department really needs to be better informed about the situation on the ground among local authorities across England, in a much more active way, in order to head off serious problems before they happen. It should look for evidence of financial stress in local authorities to assure itself that they are able to deliver the services for which they are responsible. It should be clear about the knock-on effect of the various funding decisions taken by departments in Whitehall.

Liverpool will manage, the city council and I will ensure it does, by consulting closely with communities, by building robust partnerships with others and by thinking innovatively. We have had to make incredibly tough choices as fairly as we can across all our services, but this report is a damning verdict on Eric Pickles and the pain he and his Lib Dem coat carriers are inflicting unfairly on Liverpool while apparently having no idea just how much damage and distress they are causing.

If you want to read the report for yourselves then click here

Joe


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