Social care could benefit from Nick Clegg’s announcement today of changes to council finance. During his leader’s speech to the Liberal Democrat conference, Clegg said he would give local authorities the freedom to borrow money against taxes raised by business rates to fund new developments.
Clegg also acknowledged the concern public sector workers are feeling about the impending spending cuts from 2011-15, due to be announced next month.
“I know these are very unsettling times for you. I will not disguise the fact that we need to take difficult decisions today to ensure there are good, affordable public services tomorrow.
“We have protected the funding for the NHS, the biggest public service of all. We will provide more, not less, money for the children in our schools. But I know you will be thinking: why should you have to make any sacrifices to deal with a recession you didn’t cause?”
“Why are the bankers who helped create the mess not taking more of the blame? I agree. That’s why we imposed a levy on the banks in our first budget.”
Clegg called the £44bn spent a year on debt interest a “criminal waste of money”. “It shouldn’t be lining the pockets of bond traders. It should be paying for police, care workers and schools,” he said.
On the coalition’s controversial plans to cut welfare, Clegg said: “We will be tough on welfare cheats. But unlike Labour, we’ll be tough on tax cheats too.” He also repeated his guiding belief that “work is essential to a person’s sense of self worth, their identity”.
Speaking at a time of concern of many party members over public sector cuts, Clegg also said he wanted to make it clear that the coming spending review was “not an ideological attack on the size of the state”. “There is one reason only for these cuts. As [outgoing chief secretary to the Treasury] Liam Byrne said in that infamous letter: there isn’t any money left.”
Clegg promised to “restore power to people, families, communities, neighbourhoods and councils”, describing the coalition as “a liberating government”.
In his wide-ranging speech, Clegg also repeated his pledge to stop “Labour’s mass incarceration of children”.
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