At the beginning of this month the Government announced that it had met a key financial target, writes David Ellesmere, Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council. Its day-to-day budget was now in surplus.
Cue much rejoicing from the former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
George Osborne, earning over £1million a year from his seven jobs tweeted: “We got there in the end – a remarkable national effort.”
David Cameron, tweeting from his £25,000 luxury hut agreed: “It was the right thing to do”.
So job done then?
For these two well-heeled individuals, thoroughly insulated from the effects of their decisions in Government, it might look like it.
But the rest of us are still living with the consequences of the Conservatives’ never-ending austerity.
The improvement in the nation’s finances has been bought at a terrible price in the effect on the poorest and most vulnerable people and on our public services.
But, worse than this, the improvement is clearly unsustainable.
NHS waiting times continue to increase. More than 81,000 people waited over 4 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E in January. Over 1,000 waited more than 12 hours. 12% of people waited longer than the 18 week treatment target. 1,750 waited longer than a year.
Nearly two thirds of secondary schools have had to increase class sizes due to lack of funding.
Our prisons are in crisis with 40 – 50 violent incidents happening every month and an assault on staff every two days. In some jails one officer is left to oversee 100 inmates.
Roads across the country are in their worst condition ever. Cuts in the roads maintenance budget mean that pot holes are appearing faster than they can be fixed. The repairs backlog is huge and growing all the time.
After years of funding cuts, councils are now starting to fall over. Northamptonshire has effectively been declared bankrupt. Surrey looks likely to be next. Norfolk, Somerset and Lancashire are showing warning signs.
Public services are creaking everywhere. Many are in crisis. Some are close to collapse.
Until this is put right – and we are a very long way from that happening – Government finances have not been fixed and there is no cause for rejoicing.