So here we are again - a bogus consultation exercise designed to "pass the buck".
The coalition government embarks on an austerity programme that makes economic nonsense at a time when we should be embarking on Keynsian solutions to revitalize the economy. The government cleverly passes on to local councils the unenviable task of finding savings. "Let local government take the blame - perhaps the voters will forget these are national coalition policies", seems to be their thinking.
Tory Suffolk County Council aids and abets this central government austerity programme by attacking essential public services in its own back yard. Apparently, the council has to find £50 million of savings over the next two years. And remember, this is a council which, over the years, has pared back resources and cut "red tape" and "bureaucracy" to the bone so that there is little new to cut anyway! If they had any guts they would turn round and say to the Coalition Government: "We will not carry out your orders because we value our local services and believe in local democracy." They should resign en masse and let the government do their own dirty work.
So, SCC embarks on a so-called consultation exercise asking voters what they want to see cut. In doing so they are also passing the financial buck. When push comes to shove and the full consequences of these unnecessary cuts impact on the vulnerable sectors of society, they will be able to turn round and say: "It was the people who decided." What claptrap. In both the long term and the short term [the next three years] these cuts will not only have personal consequences, they will prove economically misplaced and erosive of the public good.
My Parish Council spent nearly an hour "considering a response to the SCC Budget Consultation". In truth they were "aiding and abetting" Tory attacks on public services merely by taking the consultation document seriously. They would have done well to "return to sender" with a note saying that "we will not be accomplices in your 'claptrap' programme of cuts."
In fact, if my memory serves me right, the Parish Council found little that could be "cut back" if the values of a humane society towards the young, the infirm and the elderly were to be upheld. The only area that the Parish Council could envisage making some saving was in the area of footpath maintenance. But even this was predicated on the assumption that busy farmers would be prepared to take over responsibility for grass cutting.
I sometimes think that we are governed by PR men - the "hidden persuaders" - who bamboozle us into buying things we do not want. Let's not be fooled. Don't buy their package of cuts. Look beyond their weasel words of "we are listening" and "we want to hear from you." And decline to become accomplices in the wrecking of our civil society.