There is a massive budgetary disparity at the heart of Tory-run Worcestershire County Council. The council, which includes Housing and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s constituency, has, it seems, sought to bury a damning review of its finances carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Worcestershire’s forecast increase in demand for services was 2.5 times larger than its expected growth in resources. The CIPFA has warned the council that they face a £26.4m hole in their finances in 2018-2019, which looks to rise to £60.1m in 2020-2021.
The shadow Housing and Communities Secretary, Andrew Gwynne MP has noticed the pertinent similarities between the situation in Worcestershire CC and Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council’s bankruptcy:
“This Government has utterly failed local government, forcing many authorities to struggle to maintain basic services after cutting their funding to the bone. The National Audit Office and the IFS are calling for a change in direction, one of the Government’s own councils has gone bankrupt, and now with this mess happening in the Secretary of State’s own Council – how much longer can Sajid Javid ignore this crisis?
Almost eight years of Tory austerity clearly isn’t working. It didn’t work for Northamptonshire, and it’s not working for Worcestershire. We need to elect as many Labour councillors as possible on 3 May to stand up to the Conservatives’ cuts.”
A reduction of 47% in the council’s usable reserves over the last 5 years, as well as overspending on children’s services, has seen the Worcestershire CC looming over a prospective £60m black hole.
The discovery, which was not easily made, follows the Tory leader of the council last year having written to central Government to complain of an effective £7m funding cut.
First Tory-controlled Northamptonshire becomes ‘bankrupt’, now the Secretary of State’s own Tory-controlled Worcestershire Council is found to be financially struggling.
— Andrew Gwynne MP (@GwynneMP) April 16, 2018
Not only is the crisis in Worcestershire CC’s finances another rotten-smelling stain on Tory ideology, but the way the Tory-oligopolised council has handled it is utterly indicative of the Conservative approach.
The CIPFA findings were essentially covered up by the council. The leader of Worcestershire CC’s Labour opposition, Peter McDonald, said that he and the other Labour councillors had no knowledge of the financial review ahead of the 2018-2019 budget vote earlier this year:
“It’s absolutely diabolical […] At a time when we are having services cut year-on-year, we’re seeing hundreds of people dismissed from their jobs and work has been outsourced to private companies, this report was made and we were never informed of what it said. […] Had we been then we would have been making the correct noises to bring it to the attention of the ratepayers just how bad the financial position of the council is.”
Not only this, but the CIPFA has accused the Tory-run council of complacency in the face of nearing financial disaster.
In all, the situation at Worcestershire CC shows once more the Tory despondency and malaise when faced with the devastating effect of destructive neoliberal policies.