Cuts are changing the fabric of our society

Community librarian roles are under threat because of council cuts. Picture: James Bass

Community librarian roles are under threat because of council cuts. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2012

Following a series of cuts to public sector budgets, ANDREW PAPWORTH asks: is our society changing before our eyes?

Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal, with Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and loc

Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal, with Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and local government and Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, at a recent meeting ahead of a decision to merge the two authorities. Picture: Courtesy of Suffolk Coastal District Council. - Credit: Archant

Today, whether you like it or not, our society is going through a dramatic transformation.

It is a transformation that has been 10 years in the making, since the 2008 recession, when our political leaders decided something needed to change.

It has been marked by streams of protest, which have now become such a part of the background noise that you may understandably have switched off from it all.

How much you have noticed it also depends on where you live and what your specific council and police force is or isn't doing, as well as how much you earn and how much you rely on public services.

Norfolk Police. Picture: IAN BURT

Norfolk Police. Picture: IAN BURT - Credit: Ian Burt


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I am, of course, talking about the seemingly never-ending rounds of public sector cuts.

Whether you are for or against the cuts, the reality is that financial situation this country found itself in meant we would have been making savings – whichever political party took office.

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However, think of what has changed in that time.

Norfolk Police, for example, has made £30m of savings and has just announced £10m more cuts, axeing 140 frontline roles.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. Picture: Archant Library.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. Picture: Archant Library.

Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils are planning to merge, as are Broadland and South Norfolk, as the government is virtually removing its grant to local authorities.

Schools have become academies because they need input from businesses and charities, with the government no longer directly funding them.

A £620,000 cut to libraries and a £420,000 cut to the fire service is scheduled for Norfolk in 2018/19.

And despite all this every council in the county, apart from North Norfolk, put up council tax this year.

There are many more examples, and you could probably argue about the pros and cons of each.

The cumulative effect though is that the government is providing less to the vast majority of public services.

What we are seeing is a profound ideological change, where the public sector provides less and people either have to manage without what they used to have, or pay for services they once enjoyed.

For services that are non-essential, that may be seen as a good money-saver. If it means crimes going unsolved, fire crews and ambulances arriving a few minutes late, healthcare not provided, the question will have to be asked – was it worth those savings?

The changes may leave Norfolk financially better off, but we wait to see whether they leave our quality of life richer in the long-term.

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