Since 2010, the austerity agenda has shown the power of central over local government. George Osborne, chancellor from 2010 to 2016, set about making radical cuts to public spending in order to bring down the deficit. The easiest way to do this, from central government’s perspective, was to pass on much of the responsibility for deficit reduction to local government. Councils in Britain – unlike local government in many other European countries – remain hugely dependent on central government for their revenue and spending decisions. This comes in the form of central grants, as well as stipulations on the amount of local tax they can raise and the services they must provide. Most local councils therefore had little choice but to bring in major reductions to services for their residents under the austerity programme. Tom Crewe (2016) writes that: ‘No other area of government has been subject to the same squeeze.’ The squeeze will continue under Theresa May’s government, which did not reverse any of Osborne’s cuts.
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