“Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle!
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel!
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.”
As austerity descends upon us like a monstrous crow, our masters talk of tough decisions and changes to our way of life. There will be no winners but, like the results of unforced goalkeeping errors, some will loose more than others.
The hippo is indebted to a reader of this blog, “Observer”, who commented on a recent post reminding us of how the Walsall council leadership justified setting a service cutting budget whilst simultaneously increasing council tax. In those pre-coalition days, our smug cabinet members blamed everything on the sitting Labour government and Walsall`s finest refused to accept any responsibility for their own ineptitude and financial mismanagement. Game over, end of story, nothing to do with us.
The bovine bleating was led by our bellicose philosopher king Mike Bird who cited the parlous state of the global economy and a cut in funding from central government. No mention, though, of the causes of the financial calamity or the fact that Walsall still received more government funding than any other local authority in the region yet still sets the highest council tax. After the election which nobody won, the knives, axes and other blunter instruments are out again and it will be interesting to hear who Councillor Bird and his cronies attempt to blame this time.
At one of his first appearances at the dispatch box, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles announced a £3million cut in grant funding for Walsall. This further body blow to the populous came just a day after the cabinet axemen confirmed their long standing intent to close Willenhall Leisure Centre and Bryntysilio. No mention this time of the global economy or perfidious central government. Had the rotund, plain-speaking minister announced this from a Labour administration, our rotund, plain-speaking council leader would have been screaming blue, bloody murder. Instead, a shrug and a further sharpening of the axe.
Given the mess that the Conservatives and their silent Liberal Democrat partners have inherited, cuts in public spending are inevitable and we will all feel the consequences. But the “savings” being made by Walsall council and the additional rug-pulling by Pickles have cynically targeted those most in need and those with the smallest voice; the old, the young, the unemployed and people with disabilities. Their needs are secondary to the shareholder dividends required by Serco, Tesco and Tarmac in these recessionary times and a care home or four is obviously less of a priority than a £1million refurbishment of the Civic Centre.
With Tweedledee in charge of local government and Tweedledum running Walsall, a bleak future just got bleaker.