Leader's column: There's no going back to the dark days of austerity

In her latest column, Tameside Council leader Cllr Brenda Warrington gives her assessment of a new think-tank report and says mistakes made during 'the austerity decade' must not be repeated.

One of the themes I keep coming back to is the impact of ten years of austerity on local authorities, especially those in the North of England. 

Since 2010, as a result of a series of political, deliberate decisions and   choices made by coalition and Conservative governments, the ability of councils to carry out basic functions such as bin collections, adult social care and provision of libraries (to name but a few) has been significantly diminished.

Now a new report, released last month by the influential Manchester-based IPPR North think-tank lays bare the true scale of the damage wrought by the austerity decade. 

From 2010 to 2019, the amount spent on local government per person in England fell by £278.53, or 13 per cent. 

Like many of the cuts, this fell harder in the North of England where local government spending fell by 20 per cent, equal to £346.94 per person.

Behind that figure lies a truly appalling human cost.

It can be seen from the first stage of life in the slow erosion of opportunity for our children, who are now more likely to live in poverty since the beginning of austerity.

When those children grow up, it can be seen in the shortage in growth of high-quality jobs that would provide them with training, a career or even a living wage.

Finally, when they grow older, it can be seen in the increase in elderly and vulnerable residents forced to stay in hospital because adult social care services do not have the capacity to look after them at home.

Our welfare system was created from the dream that people would be looked after ‘from cradle to grave’, but for many now the reality for most is one of deprivation and neglect.

There can be no going back to the dark days of the austerity decade. 

The report concludes, and I fully agree, that instead of continual rhetoric on ‘levelling up’, the North needs the funding and the power to build a new future with economic fairness and environmental sustainability at its very heart.

If we’d done this back in 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that today we would be a richer and, most importantly, a healthier and kinder country. 

We cannot change the past, but we can and must make the right choices now to not make repeat those mistakes and secure a better future.

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