If you’re unaware of the extraordinary budgetary challenges faced by local authorities, it must mean that you live on another planet – or you’re Iain Duncan Smith. Despite being firmly ensconced at the heart of an austerity-obsessed government, the secretary of state for work and pensions appears blissfully unaware of the way cuts are implemented by councils in and around his Chingford and Woodford Green constituency. Much like his boss David Cameron, when he expressed horror in a letter to his local council about the level of cuts it was making.Last week, Duncan Smith came in for fierce criticism after he accused Enfield council of failing to adequately manage funding cuts when it faced a backlash to plans to cut youth services. In what Doug Taylor, the leader of Enfield council, describes as an incredibly ill-informed and inappropriate intervention, the minister told the Enfield Independent:
If you look at the successful local authorities, they are the people who have worked out what the vitally important things are that they do, and have managed to get through this process without savaging the things that really matter. My only advice to local council[s] is that if you get the balance right, you should be able to manage this in a way that is not headline news – doing it with better efficiency. It is like any company, you always face the issue of whether what you spend outweighs what you earn. Headline cuts are not the way to go.
That such a senior and high profile member of the cabinet – with no official brief for local government – has ostensibly suggested that councils could avoid gruelling financial situations if only they were better at managing budgets, has understandably angered local politicians.
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