Turkeys do vote for Christmas.
Some attentive news watchers, if able to get beyond the relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour over ‘anti-semitism’, will have noticed the reports in the press of the travails and troubles facing Northamptonshire County Council.
County Councils provide vital services to local residents including education, waste disposal and social care. These are all now placed in jeopardy as an increasing number show signs of financial stress.
Northamptonshire’s Conservative run council was until recently touted as a model for others in the headlong rush to outsource services. The plan for Northamptonshire was to outsource 95% of its staff. The corporate beneficiary? Capita.
Northamptonshire has declared that in the future it will provide only the legal minimum of services. What this will mean in practice for locals remains to be seen. Councillors claim that vital social care and child protection services will be largely unaffected.
What is less well known, because largely unreported, is that Northamptonshire is in effect the canary in the coal mine for the devastating financial position faced by many county councils, including Somerset.
This perfect storm has been realised through a combination of Tory austerity measures, which has seen councils lose about half of their government support, and outsourcing – a move to ‘easyGov’ arrangements which have, undoubtedly, offered less ‘value for money’ than promised by the cheerleaders of privatisaton.
Many councils have been forced to raid their reserves to make ends meet.
When these reserves are exhausted, all that remains is to close services such as libraries and children’s centres and to sell off assets.
The Conservatives have, historically, positioned themselves as the party of sound financial management (aided in this by an overwhelmingly partisan press). Tory run councils now find themselves at the front of the queue to jump off the financial precipice created by a neo-liberal project begun in 1979.
A real case of Turkeys voting for Christmas?