The build-up to the Budget does not bode well. I fear local government will be severely disabled by the end of the next spending review.
The prime minister’s pre-Budget speech sapped the energy out of me. I had my management team meeting the day after and it was difficult to raise spirits. At this time of the year my colleagues are usually tired but relaxed. We have gone through the difficult time of setting the budget from April and we can get back to managing the day-to-day business.
It feels different this year. David Cameron claimed the cuts programme had not adversely affected growth. The Office for Budget Responsibility quite clearly stated the cuts had reduced growth in gross domestic product by 1.4%. The reaction among colleagues? “Now the prime minister has started ignoring reality. Bad enough when our minister does it.”
My council has had more than its fair share of cuts. They have come so fast we have had no chance to develop Big Society solutions by providing services in a different way. I find myself waiting for the next election. Nobody ignores the big public debt issues that any government will face, but differences among the parties are becoming clearer.
A fairer distribution of the cuts would help. Protecting health, international development, schools and defence equipment budgets means other areas shoulder bigger cuts - and we got the worst reductions. Slowing the recovery plan and increasing capital expenditure on such things as housing, roads and other infrastructure would be a tremendous help.
What worries us is that if we get more swingeing cuts through to 2016, it will be difficult to recover if there is a switch in economic policy. As we all know, it is harder to build an organisation up than it is to dismantle it.
If the chancellor responded to widespread concern in his Budget by shifting slightly to stimulating growth, it would be welcomed widely, including among my colleagues.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…