Eurozone crisis: What does it mean for UK local government & public services?

Public Intelligence 315x275By Mike Bennett

London, 14 December 2012, Public Intelligence

Three years ago this week the Fitch ratings agency downgraded Greek debt sending stock markets tumbling and raising serious concerns about the future of European economies.

Since then, the eurozone crisis has been a permanent fixture in the news headlines but what does it really mean for the future of the UK economy and the public services that depend on the public finances? This feels like an important question, and yet if you look at the Treasury website virtually all you will find is the repeated statement that the eurozone creates a head wind for the UK economy.

The inspiration for this first seminar is the observation that there are very few opportunities for senior people in the public sector to get together and to learn, especially about issues that don’t have an immediate deadline. The idea of framing a discussion about UK public services seen through the prism of the eurozone was to unsettle this sense of immediacy and force people to think bigger and longer-term.

At a local level the politics of Europe and the eurozone will be caught up in the usual mix of party and personal loyalty and local concerns. What seems clear is that with only 21% of the announced cuts in current spending so far achieved, the impact of the government’s policy of consolidation is still to come. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement (which took place the day before our seminar) announced a further £447 million of budgets cuts for local government, with councils facing up to a 40% cut in their real terms budgets by 2017/18. Implementing these cuts will take councils far beyond efficiency, into the decommissioning of services, raising eligibility criteria and increasing fees and charges.

The debate about the eurozone showed that there are a number of experiments in public policy being carried out by different countries across Europe, when we revisit the debate again next year we will be able to say even more about whose policies worked best for public services and local government. Read complete article >