In a recent article, Guardian journalist George Monbiot draws on research conducted by I-SPHERE and University of Glasgow researchers exploring the ‘cost of the cuts’. Drawing on the findings of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation-funded project, he argues that:
“the cuts in some areas are so extreme that local authority provision is now being reduced to little more than social care, child protection and other core services, while the budgets for libraries, museums, galleries, sports facilities, small parks and playgrounds, children’s centres, youth clubs, after-school and holiday clubs, planning and environmental quality have already been slashed to the point at which these can barely function.”
The original report, published in March 2015, revealed that local authorities had to some extent been able to protect front line services by finding new, innovative ways of working, but that capacity for further efficiency savings was fast running out. Co-author Glen Bramley summarised the key findings as follows:
“This is the most in-depth study of the cuts, although its findings are consistent with those of the National Audit Office and others. All of local government is now taking substantial cuts, although the scale of these has been significantly greater in deprived urban areas. The scope for efficiency and ‘back office’ savings was largely exhausted after 2-3 years and increasingly services are simply being reduced or removed. Even efficiency savings reduce the quality and accessibility of services, and because of stress on staff it is questionable how sustainable current levels are. Local authorities have tried to protect the most pro-poor services, but some fairly pro-poor activities have been heavily cut (e.g. Supporting People) as have some critical preventative activities (Childrens Centres, Youth Services). A crunch is coming shortly in relation to social care services, where there is a critical impact on the NHS.”
The research has since been used to develop a social impact tool to help councils assess the impact of cuts on services and the public.