We’ve seen the future – and it doesn’t half look bleak

First published in The Source Worcester News: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

WHEN Eric Pickles laid into councils last week for stashing away mega-bucks in their rainy day reserves, the exasperation was felt all the way to Worcester.

The minister used a speech before a local government thinktank to lambast town halls for hiding away cash while slashing services left, right and centre.

Yet the buzzword around the Guildhall and County Hall at the moment is confusion. With the world economy in either dire straits or a full-on depression – depending on your view – ministers are staying tight-lipped about what it all means for future government grants.

Against this worrying wall of silence, beleaguered authorities are selling off the family silver, hoarding paperclips and doing pretty much all they can to safeguard against the apocalypse that could await. No wonder Lesley Meagher, the city’s finance chief, openly admits there is “lots of uncertainly” over the future.

The council’s funding from Government was slashed 14 per cent in 2011, and another 10 per cent this year. It now employs just 378 people, the lowest on record, and that keeps on shrinking by the year.

In the last two years alone £1.4 million of cuts have been made, and at the very least another £850,000 are on the way between now and 2016.

But that assumption does not take into account further drops in government funding, which just about every man, woman and dog believes is on the way.

Once upon a time many elected politicians aspired to become leaders of their respective councils. But the Source gets the feeling Coun Simon ‘Eon’ Geraghty, who works stupid hours at the Guildhall for a meagre £14,731, is sitting on a poisoned chalice.

He spent at least some of this week telling people the council has been undergoing “a pretty major reform” in response to the woeful financial support.

But a more poetic description of the problems facing them was also made this week by Coun Ken Carpenter during a budget debate.

“We’ve squeezed a lot of juice out of the orange, how much more before we start to bite into the flesh,” he said.

Quite. At this rate there won’t be much of a city council left if Big Bad Mr Pickles carries on throwing his weight around.

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