Study reveals scale of ‘savage’ austerity cuts with raft of public services forced to close

A decade of “savage” austerity cuts to local authorities has led to the closure of a raft of public services including children’s centres, libraries, bus routes and toilets, a new study suggests.

Unison said its research showed the impact of huge reductions in council funding.

A series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the union across England, Scotland and Wales examined the changes in local services between 2010 and 2019 for several council services, including youth centres, public toilets, libraries and subsidised bus routes.

Central government cuts have led to a 17% fall in council spending on local services in England since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, said the report.

Unison said its findings, using data for 330 local authorities, revealed that 859 children’s centres and family hubs have been closed while 940 youth centres have been lost.

More than a fifth of public toilets have closed, with more than 835 public conveniences disappearing since the Conservatives came to power, said Unison.

The number of council-subsidised bus routes has fallen by almost a third, a reduction of more than 1,224 services, while more than one in five libraries have either closed, been privatised or are now staffed by volunteers, according to the study.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis (pictured) said: “The scale of the cuts is both breathtaking and disturbing.

“Each cut has a major impact on a community, whether it’s a pensioner feeling isolated in their home because they can’t get a bus or people being unable to borrow books or use the internet in local libraries.

“The widespread axing of youth centres has left many young people with nowhere to turn at crucial points in their lives.

“Squeezed budgets have forced councils to make impossible decisions. No local authority wants to cut the services it offers but with much less funding coming from Westminster, they’ve often had little choice.

“It’s vulnerable people and those least able to fend for themselves who suffer most.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.