They are burning the midnight oil at County Hall. The Conservative administration and senior officers are trying to decide precisely what Wiltshire Council services they will have to cut in the next budget round.
They have a serious problem. The coalition government is taking millions more pounds out of essential grants, yet the public demand for particular services – especially adult social care, including dementia – is constantly increasing. Indeed, statutory adult care and children in care now take up the majority of the Council budget. Responsibilities such as Highways, Planning, Environment, Housing, Libraries and Communities are bound to feel the axe once again.
Even after the general election in May 2015 the pressures of austerity will continue. So much so, that we are all now taking these cuts as an inevitable fact of life. This makes us reluctant to look up and appreciate the bigger picture: why should ordinary people keep taking the hits of austerity when the real culprits of our economic woes reside elsewhere?
I refer to the scandal of the almighty banks. These institutions are apparently too big to fail and must always be bailed out by the taxpayer. The list of the banker’s wrong doing is long and growing. Just to mention a few: fixing the LIBOR and foreign exchange rates, miss-selling payment protection and finance for small businesses. Billions of pounds are involved and many ordinary people are losers, while bankers rack up their mega bonuses. Now we hear that some banks are arranging deals that facilitate tax avoidance. No wonder our public finances are in such a mess.
What is going on at County Hall is akin rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The real problem and solution lies elsewhere. It is time for ordinary people to shift their gaze and commit themselves to dealing with it.
Independent Wiltshire Councillor