Reversing austerity is the key to leveling


Ministers are obsessed with shiny new buildings and infrastructure – but sustained investment in public services is key to reducing inequality, writes Nick Golding, LGC editor-in-chief, in LGC’s July magazine feature article .

Leveling up, as seen by the government, often comes across as a game show with big cash prizes, too often awarded for giving the correct answer to the question “did you vote conservative?” “. Multi-million pound rewards are handed out – places either win or lose – accompanied by alliterative ministerial slogans like “build back better” that have more than a Bruce Forsyth ring.

The problem is, capital funding doesn’t get you far. This is especially true when it is apparently awarded on an ad hoc basis and following an impartial needs assessment, and is not part of a larger plan to achieve a clear set of goals. defined. We must of course invest in transport infrastructure, housing, shopping streets and heritage. However, opportunities and well-being are further impacted by income spending, on which the upgrade program has been largely silent.

“Slogans like ‘build back better’ sound like Bruce Forsyth”

To give the example of a city fund, “Hereford is set to use its £ 22.4million investment to introduce a fleet of electric buses and regenerate the museum, library and gallery. art into a unique and modern tourist attraction, ”according to the Department of Housing, Communities & Local Government. However, 11 years of austerity have led to a reduction in bus lines and cultural facilities nationwide because the money is not there to subsidize them; boards have had to devote meager resources to statutory services – those that are truly “life and death” as opposed to “nice to have”. This has resulted in a decline in local public infrastructure and the visible decrease in many places: they are less attractive and their populations feel more neglected. Boards need funding and the confidence that they will be kept to keep services and facilities open – hard, ongoing transplantation is needed to truly overcome inequalities, but it comes at a cost.

The July LGC magazine contains several testimonials on how a lack of funding is preventing the ramp-up. Lancashire CC chief executive Angie Ridgwell insists resources should focus on improving the life chances of newborns, while Bromley LBC chief Ade Adetosoye says failure of ministers to fully fund Sir Kevan Collins’ education stimulus package will set children back, resulting in lost opportunity and future. tax revenues. Liverpool City, Calif., Mayor Steve Rotheram (Lab) urges mayors to have more power and resources – especially when it comes to skills – to grow local economies, and Anna Earnshaw , chief executive of West Northamptonshire Council, is calling for a three-year settlement so that the council has security to rethink services to properly support its people, rather than just fighting fires.

Meanwhile, Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s review of health inequalities in Greater Manchester reveals that declining life expectancy in the region is the result of “preventable economic and social inequalities”. which prompted his call for “additional long-term investments” to take local leaders to the next level. health and wellbeing. It is not cheap – but it is surely cheaper than the costs of inequality.

This year will see more razzmatazz from ministers, as venues of their choice will receive funds when they choose (the £ 65million announced for Cornwall at last month’s G7 summit suggests Glasgow must wait for COP26 in November, whatever their needs? in advance?).

However, it is this fall’s full spending review where the most significant action will take place. Rishi Sunak must understand that more austerity will reduce local leaders and with it self-confidence and the ability of places to recover. Yes, public finances are in a difficult position after Covid – but failing to invest in vulnerable people and struggling places now will decrease life chances and national income for decades to come.

Ministers should remember that the cranes on the horizon are only temporary buildings, and shiny new buildings quickly tarnish: these are not the criteria by which long-term success will be measured. It is only by reversing austerity and empowering local leaders to chart bold new paths for their place that society will feel more just and egalitarian.

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