Thursday, 3 January 2013

Fairness? You decide

David Cameron keeps telling us that ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘there must be fairness in all the decisions we take.
Well, I’ll let you decide on the fairness of the decision to cut the incomes of millions of ordinary working families – a one-earner family on £20,000 with two children will lose £279 next year, and this is after the impact of the personal tax allowance increase, but does not include the £450 a year worse a family will be as a result of the VAT increase – so that millionaires can have a £100,000 tax cut.
And, you might also want to reflect on the fairness of the recent local government finance settlement. The 20 most deprived authorities will have their spending power cut by an average of 8.0% between 2012-13 and 2014-15. However, the 20 least deprived authorities will have their spending power cut by an average of just 0.7% between 2012-13 and 2014-15.
Locally, our councils have been hit hard again. Chesterfield is proportionately the hardest hit with a 14.5% cut in its spending power. NE Derbys 7.8% cut, Sheffield 7.3% cut, Rotherham 6.4% cut, Barnsley 6% cut, and Doncaster 6.8% cut, are all near the top end of losses. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s local council, West Oxfordshire, gets a 1.1% increase. Suffolk gets a 6% increase.
Even the coalition government’s informed supporters don’t think it’s fair. The former Conservative chair of the Local Government Association, Baroness Eaton, described the effect of local government cuts as 'detached from the reality that councils are dealing with'. Her Conservative successor, Sir Merrick Cockell, called the cuts 'unsustainable'. And the Tory Leader of Kent says his county 'can’t cope' with further reductions and 'is running on empty'. And their councils are getting the best deals.

Anyone who thinks that the scale of cuts being required of local councils will not have a big, negative impact on local services – like libraries, sports and recreation facilities, Sure Start centres – is just fooling themselves. But no-one can deny that the poorest communities will get the hardest hit.

Is it fair? You decide.