Austerity worse than Margaret Thatcher's cuts says South Tyneside Council boss

Government austerity measures have hit South Tyneside worse than cuts imposed Margaret Thatcher, according to a council boss.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10 January, 2019, 11:37
Former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, claims the borough has lost 44 per cent of its spending power in the last nine years – double the average reduction for English local authorities.

He says austerity measures since 2010 has seen spending and services cut deeper than during the Conservative regime of the 1980s.

South Tyneside Council Leader Coun Iain Malcolm.

He told a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny co-ordinating and call-in committee: “It’s clear that local government generally cannot sustain the level of service with the unprecedented cutbacks we’ve received from central government.

“Austerity seems to have only been focused on local government, but no other government department has been required to cut back at the level local government has been required to.

“It’s worse than anything Mrs Thatcher forced us to make.”

The Conservative Party was in power under Margaret Thatcher from 1979–1990 and then John Major until 1997 - a period which saw the miners’ strike in 1984 and the decline of other traditional industries across the North East.

After the 1997 general election, Labour held the keys to Downing Street until the Conservatives returned to power in 2010 on an austerity manifesto promising public spending cuts.

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As well as scaling back services such as libraries, the measures have also strained council finances to breaking point, with Northamptonshire declaring bankruptcy twice last year and Somerset being warned it was at risk of going bust.

Coun Malcolm, however, claimed South Tyneside Council has earned the public’s goodwill for the way it has dealt with ‘unprecedented’ cuts.

But he also warned there has been little indication from the government that the end of austerity is near.

He said: “Since 2010, we haven’t had a Secretary of State for Local Government who is a champion for local government.

“And I’m afraid I don’t see an end to it under this Government.

“I think austerity will continue and councils like South Tyneside will need to be more resilient.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service