Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 10 October 2013


Predicting the future is a mug's game, but you don't need a crystal ball to know that local authorities are going to have to make some tough decisions in the next few months if they are to come up with credible budgets.

I make no apology for confirming that the government is cutting grants to local councils. It really has no option. The government is still spending £110 billion this year more than we are getting in, all of which it has to borrow. We have tough plans to gradually reduce this annual deficit by 2017 and after that we will start to attack the vast mountain of debt that will by then make Mount Everest look like a mole hill. Reality check: whichever party wins the 2015 election, spending by government including local government is going to have to decline. Even though the economy is picking up, the black hole in our finances will take years to repair.

I have had meetings with Devon, Plymouth and South Hams councils in recent days. All of them are struggling to cope with unprecedented grant reductions from central government. This is making every council look long and hard at what services they will have to cut, reduce or deliver differently. This can be a valuable exercise in itself, but we should be under no allusions. There will be some difficult outcomes.

Residential homes run by local authorities may have to be transferred to the private sector. Youth activities may have to be run by the community. School transport budgets will come under the microscope. The maintenance of our roads might take another hit. How we access council services will have to be stream-lined and maximum use of technology will have to be made. Councils will have to decide what services they can support and what they have to cut.

These difficult decisions will be for elected councillors to take.

We are entering a brave new world, where, through financial necessity, the state is going to become smaller. This means that if we are to properly care for the most vulnerable in the midst, the citizen, the community, must become stronger. This will be a test of our unselfish natures. It is an opportunity for the faith communities and charitable sector. It will require a change of mindset: the state cannot do everything.

I have no doubt that in our part of the world we will respond to the challenge.  

posted by Gary @ 09:19